Sykes, Record Free Throws Propel Phoenix in Opener

Courtesy: Green Bay Athletics
         
Release: November 10, 2012
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By: Andrew Gavin (@GBGavin)
GreenBayPhoenix.com

GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - It wasn't always pretty, and it certainly was not fast, but the Green Bay men's basketball team was able to use a record number of made free throws and a career-high 31 points from sophomore Keifer Sykes (Chicago, Ill.) to fight off visiting Chicago State and post a 72-67 season opening win at the Resch Center on Saturday afternoon.

A Chicago native, Sykes topped the previous career high of 27 that he posted in the team's last regular season game of 2011-12, a win at UIC last February. He did so by scoring 22 points after halftime and connecting on a Green Bay record 17 free throws (17-19). As a team, the Phoenix also broke a 31-year old program record for free throws made, hitting 41-for-48 (85.4%).

The Phoenix needed every one of the free throws and all of Sykes' heroics to overcome 30 turnovers and escape a feisty Chicago State team that jumped out to a 13-1 lead at the first media timeout.

"It was an ugly win, but I'll take 30 of them if I can get them," said third-year head coach Brian Wardle after Green Bay improved to 23-2 in home openers since 1987-88.

Green Bay scored 18 of the next 23 points and took its first lead on a pair of free throws by senior Brennan Cougill (Sioux City, Iowa) with 9:05 left in the first half. The Phoenix missed the first free throw of the night before making its next 16 attempts. Green Bay's shooting percentage was just 26.1 percent (6-for-23) at halftime, but 17-of-19 from the line helped the team to trail just 33-30.

Sykes had two thunderous dunks in the game, the first with 5:43 left in the first half and the second early in half two when he opened by scoring 13 of the team's first 19 points to turn the deficit into a 49-41 lead with 12:48 to play.

Chicago State refused to go away, however, and the teams traded leads over the next seven minutes. The Cougars led 65-61 with 5:09 to play. The Phoenix, who won 12 of its 14 home games a season ago, responded with the next eight points and never trailed the rest of the way.

Sykes fittingly had five points during the run to surpass his previous career high. He finished 7-of-14 from the field and added the 17 free throws to become the first Phoenix player under Wardle to score 30 or more points in a game. Sykes also added seven rebounds and three steals in 36 minutes. The last Green Bay player to score 30 or more was Troy Cotton, who had 36 at Akron on March 17, 2010.

The Phoenix won despite a 4-for-26 combined shooting day from the other four starters - Cougill, juniors Alec Brown (Winona, Minn.) and Kam Cerroni (Sussex, Wis.) and freshman Jordan Fouse (Racine, Wis.). Fouse (10) and Brown (7) did help Green Bay to a 45-31 edge on the glass. Cougill was the only other player in double figures while Cerroni made all six of his free throws en route to eight points.

Green Bay finished the game shooting 31.3 percent (15-48), including 1-for-17 from long range. The Phoenix held CSU to 36.5 percent from the floor (23-63) and forced 27 turnovers.

The team hits the road to play four games in five days this week. Green Bay plays Southern Utah, Nevada and Cal State Fullerton at the World Vision Classic in Reno, Nevada from Nov. 16-18 before playing at Idaho on Nov. 20.

###

Read a full season preview of the men's basketball team and watch a 1-on-1 interview with Wardle.

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INSIDE MEN'S BASKETBALL
SCHEDULE
Saturday , December 03
Men's Basketball 
at Toledo
6:00 PM
Toledo, Ohio (Savage Arena)
 | Live Stats  | ESPN3  | WNFL  
Tuesday , December 06
Men's Basketball 
at Central Michigan
6:00 PM
Mount Pleasant, Mich. (McGuirk Arena)
ESPN3  | WNFL  
Wednesday, December 14
Men's Basketball 
at Wisconsin
8:00 PM
Madison, Wis. (Kohl Center)
Big Ten Network  | WNFL  
Saturday , December 17
Men's Basketball 
vs. Belmont (Festival Foods Family Game)
4:30 PM
RESCH CENTER
ESPN3  | WNFL  
Monday , December 19
Men's Basketball 
vs. SIUE
7:00 PM
RESCH CENTER
ESPN3  | WNFL  
Thursday , December 22
Men's Basketball 
vs. Saint Mary's (MN)
7:00 PM
RESCH CENTER
ESPN3  | WNFL  
Thursday , December 29
Men's Basketball 
at Cleveland State
6:00 PM
Cleveland, Ohio (Wolstein Center)
ESPN3  | WNFL  
Saturday , December 31
Men's Basketball 
at Youngstown State
11:00 AM
Youngstown, Ohio (Beeghly Center)
ESPN3  | WNFL  
Friday , January 06
Men's Basketball 
vs. Milwaukee (Bud Light Night)
7:00 PM
RESCH CENTER
ESPN3  | WNFL  
Tuesday , January 10
Men's Basketball 
vs. Northern Kentucky
7:00 PM
RESCH CENTER
ESPN3  | WNFL  
Thursday , January 12
Men's Basketball 
vs. Wright State
7:00 PM
RESCH CENTER
ESPN3  | WNFL  
Monday , January 16
Men's Basketball 
at Valparaiso
7:00 PM
Valparaiso, Ind. (The ARC)
ESPN3  | WNFL  
Friday , January 20
Men's Basketball 
vs. Youngstown State (Prevea Health BlackOut Cancer Game)
7:00 PM
RESCH CENTER
ESPN3  | WNFL  
Monday , January 23
Men's Basketball 
vs. Cleveland State
6:00 PM
RESCH CENTER
American Sports Network / ESPN3  | WNFL  
Friday , January 27
Men's Basketball 
at Oakland
8:00 PM
Rochester, Mich. (Athletics Center O'Rena)
ESPNU / ESPN3  | WNFL  
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