GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - Less than 24 hours after a thrilling 64-63 victory over UIC in the Horizon League Championship quarterfinals, Green Bay returns to the court at the Athletics and Recreation Center on Saturday night to play the top-seeded and host Valparaiso at 7:30 p.m. The Phoenix will be looking to advance to the championship game for the first time 1998.
Green Bay led throughout most of the second half on Friday night, but the Flames rallied and took a late lead on a pair of free throws with seven seconds left. Sophomore Keifer Sykes (Chicago, Ill.) drove the ball into the paint and kicked to junior Sultan Muhammad (Grand Rapids, Mich.), who buried the game-winning three from the right wing with 1.3 seconds remaining.
The Phoenix has dropped both games against the Crusaders this season, including a 75-56 result at the Resch Center a week ago in the regular season finale.
TICKET INFORMATION: Tickets can be purchased for Saturday night by visiting ValpoAthletics.com, calling 219-464-5233 or by visiting the Valparaiso University Ticket Office, located in the main lobby of the ARC (extended hours of 10 a.m.-7 p.m. this week).
FOLLOW THE PHOENIX: Fans not making the trip to Valparaiso on Saturday night will be able to watch the game live on ESPNU. Jim Barbar will be on the call as the play-by-play analyst alongside analyst Malcolm Huckaby.
On the radio, the play-by-play voice of the Phoenix Matt Menzl will be on the call alongside Andrew Gavin on WDUZ The Fan 1400 AM or thefan1075.com. Live stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com. You can also stay up-to-date by following @GBPhoenixMBB and @GBGavin on Twitter.
1. TOURNAMENT TIME: Green Bay's two wins in the tournament have improved the program to 16-17 overall in the Horizon League Championship. The Phoenix won the title in 1995 and last advanced to the championship game in 1998. Green Bay last won two games in the league tournament in 2007 and has not won three games since winning the title in 1995.
2. LONG RANGE: Three-point shooting has not been the focus of the Phoenix offense this season, but the team was been effective from long range in Horizon League play, ranking third in the conference. Junior Alec Brown (Winona, Minn.) shot 44.4 percent from beyond the arc and has carried that into the tournament with a 5-for-11 effort in two games. On Friday night, Green Bay made 8-of-18 three-pointers, just one shy of its season high and more than it had in any league game.
3. COMPETE, DEFEND, REBOUND: Wardle has stressed this phrase and this emphasis since he was hired prior to the 2010-11 season, and it highlights the team's strengths in 2012-13. Green Bay led the Horizon League in field goal percentage defense, blocked shots and rebounding margin in conference play. In its opening round win over Milwaukee, all three of those stats were on display as the Panthers shot just 26.5 percent, had eight shots blocked and were outrebounded by 12. It was the fifth time this season a Phoenix opponent failed to reach 50 points, the most since 2000-01. Green Bay is 14-0 this season when holding teams below 60 points.
• THE SEASON SERIES: Green Bay led the Horizon League in field goal percentage defense but could not slow down the Crusader offense as Valpo shot 50.5 percent from the field in the two wins. Matt Kenney averaged 15.5 points in the two contests to lead Valpo. Junior Alec Brown (Winona, Minn.) averaged 16.5 points per game in the two games. Green Bay held a slight rebounding edge in the games, including grabbing 20 offensive boards.
• LAUDED ALL-LEAGUE: Sykes, Brown and freshman Jordan Fouse (Racine, Wis.) were all honored by the Horizon League on Monday with postseason accolades. Sykes, who ranks in the top-5 in the conference in points and assists, was named to the first team while Brown was a second-team selection after averaging 15.6 points in league play. Fouse was the runner-up for Newcomer of the Year and named to the All-Newcomer team.
• SECOND-HALF SYKES: Sykes, one of just two Horizon League players to be named Player of the Week at least three times this season, has done the majority of his damage in the clutch. In the past eight games against Horizon League foes, he has scored 105 of his 139 points in the second half or overtime, averaging 13.1 points after halftime. For the season, Sykes averages 9.2 points per game after halftime.
• INSIDE AND OUTSIDE THE ARC: Brown has played the best basketball of his career down the stretch this season. The 7-foot-1 Brown has 1,180 career points, and against League opponents this season he is averaging 15.8 points per game. Since the beginning of February against conference foes, Brown is averaging 18.1 and 2.3 blocks per game. In those nine games, he's shooting 52.8 percent (57-108), including 51.7 percent from three (15-29).
• DOMINANT DEFENSIVE DUO: Brown and Fouse both were named to the five-player All-Defensive Team after helping the Phoenix rank first in field goal percentage defense, rebounding and blocked shots in league play. Brown and Fouse are the first Phoenix players to be named all-defense since 2008-09 and the first Green Bay duo on the team since 1997-98. In addition, Fouse is the first freshman in the conference to be named to the All-Defensive Team since another Phoenix player, Terry Evans in 2005-06, and the first freshman to lead the Horizon League in rebounding since Northern Illinois' T.J. Lux in 1995-96.
• TOP OF THE CLASS: Fouse's rookie campaign has included impressive consistency, and he is now the holder of Green Bay's freshman records for rebounds (248) and steals (55) in a season. His 47 blocks are tied for the fourth-most by any Phoenix player, and with one more he will have more blocks in a season than any Green Bay player not named Alec Brown.
For the latest and most up-to-date information on Green Bay Athletics, please visit GreenBayPhoenix.com.Green Bay Phoenix men's basketball and Green Bay Phoenix Athletics on Facebook.