CHICAGO, Ill. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - Its point guard and leading scorer was on the bench with an injury, and visiting Green Bay (12-11, 6-4 HL) had seen its 11-point lead turn into a five-point deficit with 6:40 to play at Loyola (13-9, 3-6 HL) on Saturday afternoon. With a lineup on the court together for the first time, the Phoenix ended the game on a 23-10 run and gutted out a 73-65 win in Horizon League action.
Junior Alec Brown (Winona, Minn.) scored a career-high 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting, but it was a scoreless afternoon from sophomore Keifer Sykes (Chicago, Ill.) and impressive efforts from Sultan Muhammad (Grand Rapids, Mich.) and Cole Stefan (Minnetonka, Minn.) that stole the headlines.
Sykes, who came in averaging 19.3 points per game playing in his hometown, was limited to just 16 minutes because of an ankle injury. Trying to play through pain, he started the second half but left after just two minutes. The team's leading scorer who averaged 15.3 points and 34.7 minutes per game would not return.
After leading 34-28 at the break, Green Bay's lead hit 11 (43-32) after seven-straight points from Brown, but a 15-3 run by the Ramblers midway through the half gave the hosts a 55-50 lead with 6:40 to play. The Phoenix had turned it over on three of its last four possessions, and visibly missed their floor general.
Head coach Brian Wardle decided to go to without a point guard, moving Muhammad to the position in the backcourt with Stefan. The move saved the game for the Phoenix, as the duo stepped up in a huge way.
Muhammad drained a three-pointer on the next possession, and three minutes later Stefan capped a 10-0 Green Bay run with his third triple of the game to give the Phoenix a 60-55 lead with 3:33 to play. After a Loyola bucket, senior Brennan Cougill (Sioux City, Iowa) made a three-pointer from the top of the key for a six-point lead (63-57), and the Phoenix led by at least four the rest of the way. The Cougill three snapped a personal streak of 13-straight misses from long range.
In the final 6:40, Green Bay went 6-of-6 from the field, including 3-of-3 from beyond the arc, and did not commit a turnover. Muhammad scored 11 of his 14 points after halftime, and Stefan finished with 13 points. The transfer entered Saturday having scored 12 points all season. The two guards combined to go 8-of-13 from the field, 4-of-7 from long range. Muhammad had three assists and zero turnovers while Stefan grabbed five rebounds.
Led by freshman Jordan Fouse (Racine, Wis.), Green Bay held a 32-20 advantage on the glass. Playing a career-high 38 minutes, Fouse grabbed a career-best 13 rebounds while adding eight points, four assists, three steals and a block.
With Brown going 10-of-14 from the field, including nine-straight makes at one point, Green Bay shot 26-of-45 from the field (57.8%) and 6-of-13 from long range.
With its four-game road trip in the books, Green Bay returns home this week for games against Wright State (Thursday, 7 p.m.) and Detroit (Saturday, 1 p.m.).
Single-game tickets for Phoenix home games are on sale 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.
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