Second Half Defense Leads Phoenix to Win in League Opener
GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) – With its second-half defense forcing nine turnovers and limiting Cleveland State (8-7, 0-1 HL) to just 30 percent shooting, Green Bay (10-3, 1-0 HL) outscored the visiting Vikings 43-26 after intermission and won its fifth-straight game with a 66-55 victory in its Horizon League opener on Thursday night at the Resch Center.
Trailing 29-23 at halftime, Green Bay used a 9-0 run early in the second half to go in front with 13:11 to play, and the hosts never trailed the rest of the way. CSU shot just 10-of-30 from the field and committed nine turnovers in the second half as the Phoenix swatted five shots and tallied six steals. The nation’s second-best shot blocking team finished with eight blocks and eight steals.
The Phoenix featured terrific balance on Thursday night, with senior Alec Brown (Winona, Minn.) totaling 17 points, seven rebounds and five blocked shots to lead the team. Sophomore Jordan Fouse (Racine, Wis.) scored a season-best 15 points and added seven boards, five assists and three steals, and junior Keifer Sykes (Chicago, Ill.) added 15 points.
Green Bay’s lead was 58-52 with 1:56 to play after CSU’s Marlin Mason knocked down a three-pointer. After a timeout called by head coach Brian Wardle, Fouse found the 5-foot-11 Sykes on a backdoor cut for a flush in the lane. The two teams traded 1-for-2 trips to the free throw line before Fouse had a steal and a monster dunk for the dagger and a 63-53 lead.
For Fouse, his best offensive game of the season complimented another strong defensive effort, as the 6-foot-7 sophomore played impressively atop the Green Bay zone defense in the second half. Cleveland State’s top two scorers – guards Bryn Forbes (17.6) and Trey Lewis (13.8) – combined for just 19 points on 6-of-27 shooting from the field and 2-of-15 from long range.
The Phoenix finished the game shooting an efficient 55 percent from the field (22-40) and 5-of-12 from long range. After committing eight turnovers in the first half, Green Bay had nine assists and just four miscues after halftime.
Green Bay returns to its home court on Saturday, hosting Youngstown State at 1 p.m.
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