CHICAGO, Ill. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - When UIC's Paris Carter hit a free-throw with 8:27 to play Saturday afternoon to cut the Flames' deficit to one, Green Bay (15-14, 10-8 HL) turned to a Chicago native to extend its winning streak to five games. Freshman Keifer Sykes (Chicago, Ill.) answered the call, scoring the last six Green Bay baskets and 14 points in the final eight minutes to lead the Phoenix to a 71-63 victory over UIC (8-21, 3-15 HL).
In the process, he thrilled a hometown crowd that he estimated to be at 80-100 friends and family. Sykes scored a career-high 27 points and added six assists to keep Green Bay rolling into next week's Horizon League Tournament. The Phoenix, who will have the seventh seed, will play at sixth-seeded Youngstown State on Tuesday in the opening round.
With the score 48-47, Sykes scored baskets on four consecutive possessions over the next two minutes as part of an 8-3 run that put Green Bay up 56-50 with 6:09 left.
The lead was cut to 58-55 with 4:13 remaining, Sykes drained a fallaway jumper and was fouled to increase the lead to six (61-55) at the under-four media timeout. UIC's Hayden Humes answered with a three, and after a Greg Mays (Chicago, Ill.) free throw and a stop on the other end, Sykes made his best play of the night.
Getting the ball with five seconds on the shot clock, Sykes drilled a three-pointer from the top of the key, his sixth-straight basket and essentially sealed the win by putting Green Bay up 65-58 with 1:56 left.
For the freshman point guard and Marshall High School product, the game capped an unbelievable end to his first regular season on the basketball court. Over the past 16 games since his 18th birthday, Sykes has averaged 15.1 points and 5.1 assists. In 15 of those games, including 10 in a row, Sykes has reached double figures.
Sykes was not the only Chicago native and not the only freshmen that helped the Phoenix to a win. Mays came off the bench to set a career high with 13 points and added eight rebounds. Aaron Armstead (Chicago, Ill.) went f-of-4 from the line and had eight points and four rebounds. In all, Green Bay's five players from the Windy City accounted for 51 of the team's 71 points.
Sykes and the Chicago contingent overshadowed a second-straight double double from sophomore Alec Brown (Winona, Minn.), who finished with 12 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots.
The win completed the first Chicago weekend sweep for Green Bay over Loyola and UIC since 1998-99.
Green Bay has won eight of its last 10 games since losing 77-47 at Youngstown State on Jan. 22. The Phoenix will return to the Beeghly Center on Tuesday to face the Penguins. On Feb. 14, Green Bay beat Younstown State 71-65 at the Resch Center to begin the five-game winning streak.
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