Green Bay Meets South Dakota for the First Time Saturday
GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - On Wednesday night, the Phoenix spoiled Marquette's first visit to the Resch Center with a gritty 49-47 win over the Golden Eagles. On Saturday, Green Bay welcomes another program to the Resch Center for the first time as South Dakota visits for the first all-time meeting between the two programs. The contest will tip at 7 p.m. as the Phoenix aims to spoil the Coyotes' visit and build momentum heading into Horizon League play starting on Jan. 3 at Wright State.
Scoring 20 points with five assists and zero turnovers, sophomore Keifer Sykes (Chicago, Ill.) continued his incredible play, but it was the Green Bay stifling zone defense that proved the difference against Marquette. The Phoenix held the Golden Eagles to just 16 points and 27.3 percent shooting after halftime.
Sykes, who ranks second in the Horizon League averaging 16.7 points per game, was named to the Bob Cousy Award Watch List this week as one of the nation's top point guards.
Saturday's meeting with South Dakota will pit two of the nation's top free-throw shooting teams. South Dakota enters shooting 79.3 percent from the charity stripe to rank third in the country while the Phoenix rank 20th at 75.9 percent.
FOLLOW THE PHOENIX: Fans in the seats or those unable to attend Saturday's will be able to follow the action in numerous ways on Saturday night. The game will be carried live by WDUZ The Fan 1400 AM and online at thefan1075.com. The play-by-play voice of the Phoenix Matt Menzl will be on the call with Cordero Barkley. Live stats and live video will be available on GreenBayPhoenix.com. You can also stay up-to-date by following @GBPhoenixMBB and @GBGavin on Twitter.
1. HOME SWEET HOME: Green Bay is 3-1 at home this season after the victory over Marquette. In the past three seasons under head coach Brian Wardle, the Phoenix is 25-7 at the Resch Center, including a 15-3 mark since the start of the 2011-12 season. With 20 or more points in all four games, Sykes is averaging 23.5 points per game and is 41-of-49 from the free-throw line at home this season.
2. END OF A GREAT YEAR: Tonight is the last game for Sykes as an 18-year old, a year in which his on-court performance was beyond his years. In 28 games since his last birthday, Sykes is averaging 15.5 points per game and has reached double figures an astonishing 25 times. The Chicagoan reached 500 career points Wednesday and has 519 in his career, including 434 as an 18-year old. Sykes turns 19 on Dec. 30, when the Phoenix hosts Illinois-Springfield at 6 p.m. VIDEO: GreenBayPhoenix.com highlights the top-18 moments for Sykes as an 18-year old
3. MAYS DAYS: Sophomore Greg Mays (Chicago, Ill.) has started the past two games and is taking advantage of his opportunity. Mays had a season-high 11 points Wednesday and is 8-of-12 from the field with averages of 9.5 points and 4.0 rebounds in the past two games.
• INSIDE THE MATCHUP: Saturday will mark the first meeting between Green Bay and South Dakota, but the two programs do have a connection. Phoenix assistant coach Jimmie Foster played two seasons at South Dakota and graduated from USD in 2002. Not only do the two teams shoot free throws exceptionally well, but both get to the line with regularity. South Dakota makes an average of 17.7 points per game while Green Bay is making an average of 17.5 free throw a contest. Both teams enter after a win on Wednesday, with South Dakota downing Morehead State 85-75.
• IN GOOD COMPANY: On Friday, Sykes was added to the Bob Cousy Award Watch List as one of the nation's top point guards. The honor named after Hall of Famer Bob Cousy is handed out at the Final Four to the player named the top point guard in the country.
• HISTORIC WIN: Not only was Green Bay's 49-47 win over Marquette historic because it was the first time the Golden Eagles had visited Green Bay in 12 all-time meetings, but it was also the first Phoenix victory in the series since Jan. 7, 1995 (50-48). Green Bay improved to 3-9 all-time in the series and, of course, 1-0 at home.
• STIFLING DEFENSE: Green Bay played almost exclusively zone defense in Wednesday's win over Marquette, and the scrappy Phoenix stifled the Golden Eagles throughout the night, especially in the second 20 minutes. In the second half, Marquette scored just 16 points and made 6-of-22 field goals. The 47 points scored were the fewest by a Phoenix opponent since holding Loyola to 47 points on Dec. 3, 2011. Green Bay's 49 points scored were the fewest scored in a Phoenix win since beating Detroit 45-42 on Jan. 30, 2006.
• HOME FREE: Led by perfection from junior Kam Cerroni (21-21), the charity stripe has been kind to the Phoenix this season as the team is 16th nationally in free throw percentage. Green Bay has been especially efficient at the line at the Resch Center, shooting 79.3 percent (96-121) from the line and making more than twice as many free throws as its opponents (96-47). Cerroni is a perfect 12-of-12 from the stripe while Sykes has connected on 50-for-62 from the line at the Resch Center.
• FAST START FOR THE FROSH: Wardle started a true freshman in the opener for the third-straight season, and freshman Jordan Fouse (Racine, Wis.) has made it look like a great decision through 11 games. The 6-foot-7 Fouse is averaging 4.8 points per game and leads the team in rebounds (74), steals (13) and blocks (11). He has led the team in rebounding in six times.
Read a full season preview of the men's basketball team and watch a 1-on-1 interview with Wardle.
Pick 5 packages and single-game tickets are on sale now with the Green Bay Athletics Ticket Office. For more information and to order tickets, please call 920.465.2625, visit the athletics department offices in the Kress Events Center or access GreenBayPhoenix.com/tickets.