Rivals Meet as Green Bay Plays at Milwaukee on Sunday
GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) – Sunday’s meeting between Green Bay and Milwaukee pits the two teams picked to finish first and last, respectively, in the Horizon League’s Preseason Poll. Instead, it will be a meeting of the top-two teams in the conference on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Milwaukee’s U.S. Cellular Arena.
The Phoenix enters with seven-straight wins after concluding non-conference play with a 98-62 win at Chicago State, and as the lone Horizon League team unbeaten in league play. The surprise Panthers stand 12-5 overall and at 2-1 in conference action after winning 84-75 at Oakland on Wednesday night.
The Green Bay winning streak – its longest since the 2003-04 team won nine-straight games – has helped the team to its best start in 17 years. During the streak, senior Alec Brown (Winona, Minn.) has averaged 20.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and four blocks per game while shooting 58.6 percent from the field. For the season, Brown is averaging 16 points and 3.5 blocks per contest.
The team’s other All-League performer - junior Keifer Sykes (Chicago, Ill.) – is the reigning Horizon League Player of the Week for the fourth time in 2013-14. The 5-foot-11 guard is third in the conference in scoring (19.6 ppg) and is first in assists (5.3) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.9).
GREEN BAY PROBABLE STARTERS
G – #24 Keifer Sykes, G, Jr., 5-11, 175
G – #35 Vincent Garrett, G, Sr., 6-6, 220
F – #4 Jordan Fouse, F, So., 6-7, 225
F – #15 Greg Mays, F, Jr., 6-9, 222
C – #21 Alec Brown, C, Sr., 7-1, 235
LIVE COVERAGE: Sunday afternoon’s contest will be televised regionally by Time Warner Cable SportsChannel, and the broadcast can also be watch on the Horizon League Network. On WNFL 1440 AM, Matt Menzl (play-by-play) and Cordero Barkley (analyst) will bring fans the radio call.
INSIDE THE SERIES: Including a three-game sweep last season, Green Bay holds a 29-19 overall record in the all-time series with Milwaukee. The Panthers hold a 13-10 advantage against the Phoenix in Milwaukee. The 2013-14 sweep for Green Bay included a 74-54 road win in a game played at the Klotsche Center.
LAST SEASON’S MEETINGS: In last season’s three-game sweep by Green Bay, Brown averaged 23 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game while Sykes posted 16.7 points per game. With Brown (13) and Sykes (12) combining to average 25 points after halftime, Green Bay outscored the Panthers by 40 points in the second half alone. The Phoenix held a plus-10 rebound margin and held Milwaukee to 34 percent shooting overall and just 19.7 percent from long range.
SECOND-HALF SPURTS: During the Phoenix winning streak, the team has been exceptional on both ends of the court during the second half. In the seven second halves, Green Bay a scoring margin of plus-19 while shooting 60.7 percent (122-201) and holding its opponents to only 29.9 percent from the field (59-197).
PLAYING THE PERCENTAGES: Green Bay enters Sunday’s game leading the Horizon League and ranked seventh nationally in defensive field goal percentage (37.1%). Offensively, the Phoenix ranks second in the conference and tied for 43rd nationally in field goal percentage (.482). Green Bay has shot 55 percent or higher in each of the past four games.
HANDLE THE ROCK: Including back-to-back nine assist games, Sykes has games of 7, 8, 9, 9, 9 and 10 assists this season. In those six outings, he has just 10 combined turnovers. Against Virginia, he dished out a season-high 10 assists and committed two turnovers. In wins over Pepperdine (7), St. Francis (8) and Youngstown State (9), Sykes did not commit a turnover.
BLOCK PARTY: With eight blocks at Chicago State, Green Bay has now blocked 117 shots in 15 games this season. The 117 blocks are the fourth-most in a single season in program history, behind only the totals of the past three seasons. With an average 7.8 rejections per game, the Phoenix ranks second nationally in blocks per game behind only St. John’s (9.0).
BROWN’S BLOCKS: Brown is having the best season of his career, which includes blocks. Averaging 3.5 per game, the 7-foot-1 senior ranks tenth nationally. With 52 blocks in 15 games in 2013-14, Brown is on pace to break his own school record of 89, set in 2011-12. Brown now owns each of the top-four spots on the program’s single-season blocks chart (52, 59, 67, 89).
RECORD IN REACH: At the beginning of the season, the chances of Brown breaking Youngstown State’s Damian Eargle’s Horizon League record for career blocks would have seemed like a longshot, but due to his terrific start to the season the record is in reach. With 267 career blocks, Brown is now only 44 rejections shy of breaking Eargle’s record of 309, set last season.
MOVING ON UP: Brown, the lone player in Horizon League history with 1,400 points, 700 rebounds and 250 blocks, now ranks ninth in Green Bay history in scoring (1,458 points) and fifth all-time in career rebounds (724). Sykes, with 1,168 career points, moved into 19th place with 21 points at Chicago State.
WINNING WEEKLY: With Sykes (Nov. 18, Dec. 2, Dec. 9) winning three times and Brown (Nov. 25) earning one award, Green Bay became the first team in Horizon League history to win four-straight player of the week awards. Since, Brown won again on Dec. 23 and Sykes won on Jan. 6, giving the Phoenix a program record six weekly awards this season. Sykes is the program’s all-time leader in Horizon League Player of the Week awards with eight. He notched one honor as a freshman, three as a sophomore and now three more as a junior. The eight weekly awards are tied for second in Horizon League history, two behind Detroit’s Rashad Phillips, who had 10.
SCORING GUARD: Sykes is off to a torrid start to his junior campaign. Averaging 19.6 points per game, Sykes is third in the Horizon League while leading the conference in assists (5.3). Against Virginia, Sykes became the first player in the program’s Division I history to score 20 or more in six-straight games. The 5-foot-11 point guard has nine 20-point games this season, the first Phoenix player to have that many since Ryan Tillema had nine in 2008-09. The last Phoenix player to score 20 or more in 10 games in one season was Ryan Evanochko in 2005-06.
STREAKING SOPHOMORE: Sophomore Jordan Fouse (Racine, Wis.), the Horizon League’s leading rebounder at 8.4 per game, has now grabbed five or more boards in 33-straight games dating back to his freshman season.
FOUSE OF FURY: Fouse had a terrific start to conference play last week. The 6-foot-7 forward had 15 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals in Green Bay’s win over Cleveland State. Fouse then had 10 points, 7 rebounds and 4 steals against YSU. After starting the season shooting just 39.7 percent in the first 12 games, Fouse made 12-of-15 shots last week, including a 7-for-8 effort against Cleveland State.
MAYSDAYS: Junior Greg Mays (Chicago, Ill.) has put together a nice start to his junior season, averaging 10.6 points, five rebounds and 1.1 blocks. In recent wins over Youngstown State and Chicago State, Mays is averaging 17.5 points on 68.2 percent shooting (15-22). Through 15 games, Mays ranks fifth in the league in field goal percentage (56.0%), eighth in blocks and 22nd in scoring. Twenty of Mays’ 65 field goals in 2013-14 have been dunks, helping him to 55 career dunks entering Sunday.
HANDOUTS: Green Bay had 20 assists in Tuesday’s win at Chicago State and is now averaging 16.6 assists per game. The Phoenix average leads the Horizon League and ranks 18th nationally. Sykes leads the conference at 5.3 assists per game while Fouse is one of just two non-guards ranking the top-15. Fouse had a career-high six assists at Chicago State.
SUCCESS AT SEVENTY: Through 15 games, Green Bay has a 10-0 record when scoring 70-plus points, including six wins totaling 85 or more. The Phoenix is 2-3 in the four games this season when it failed to reach 70 points. Green Bay’s 77.9 points per game would rank as the highest in the program’s Division I history.
ALSO UNDEFEATED WHEN: Green Bay is 10-0 when it commits the same or less turnovers than its opponent. The Phoenix is 9-0 when it makes more free throws than the opponent. The team also sports a 9-0 record when leading at halftime. Green Bay is 7-0 when shooting 50 percent from the field or better.
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