GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - Getting 39 points from its bench and putting four players in double figures, Green Bay (3-4, 1-0 HL) used a big late bucket from Brennan Cougill (Sioux City, Iowa) and snuck past UIC (2-4, 0-1 HL) 71-68 in its Horizon League opener Thursday night at the Resch Center.
What looked at times during the first half like it might be an easy Phoenix win turned into a dogfight in an entertaining but stressful second 20 minutes.
Sophomore Kam Cerroni (Sussex, Wis.) drained a three on the opening possession of the second half to make a 33-26 lead a 10-point advantage. The Flames responded by scoring the next 10 points, and a three-pointer by UIC's Daniel Barnes gave the visitors their first lead (42-41) with 14:11 to play.
The next 14 minutes included 10 ties and six lead changes as two teams were determined to get conference play off to a strong start.
Another Cerroni three, his third of the night, put Green Bay ahead by seven (63-56) with 4:17 to play, but the Flames again rattled off 10 unanswered points to lead 66-63 with 2:12 on the clock.
Cerroni scored a career-high 11 points, hitting 3-of-4 from long range. The sophomore is now shooting 50 percent from three-point range and averaging 6.7 points per game at home.
Green Bay went inside on its next two possessions, and sophomore Alec Brown (Winona, Minn.) and Cougill delivered with back-to-back layups to give the Phoenix a 67-66 lead with 1:07 remaining.
With 17 seconds left, Cougill stole the ball from UIC's Darrin Williams after a missed free throw from Daniel Turner (McCordsville, Ind.) and laid it in for a 71-68 lead.
UIC's Daniel Barnes went up for a game-tying three-pointer, but Cerroni reached in and stole the ball. The Phoenix ran out the clock for a 1-0 league start.
Brown had a team-high 17 points and added seven rebounds to lead the four Phoenix players in double figures. Cougill and sophomore Terry Johnson (Chicago, Ill.) added 12 points each off the Green Bay bench, which contributed 39 points.
Green Bay won despite UIC draining seven of its nine three-point attempts in the second half. Barnes hit four of them and tied Brown for game-high honors.
One reason for the Phoenix closing out the win was its ability to handle the ball. After committing four turnovers in the opening seven minutes, Green Bay had just three miscues over the final 33 minutes.
The Phoenix will look to stay unbeaten at home on Saturday, hosting Loyola at 7 p.m. Green Bay will give away 1,000 replica youth jerseys courtesy of Nicolet Bank and Time Warner Cable and host a Festival Foods Family Game with tickets starting at $9 for adults and $7 for children.
Season tickets, Pick 5 packages and single-game tickets for both programs are currently on sale with the Green Bay ticket office. For more information on ticket packages and promotions, please visit GreenBayPhoenix.com/tickets.
For the latest and most up-to-date information on Green Bay Athletics, please visit GreenBayPhoenix.com.