Defense, Rebounding Help Phoenix Win Tourney Opener
GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - On a possession early in the game on Tuesday night, the Green Bay men's basketball team missed five shots. It was a telling possession, but not because of the missed shots but rather the scrappiness and effort the team displayed. Each time, the Phoenix grabbed the offensive rebound and eventually earned two free throws.
That scrappiness and effort helped fourth-seeded Green Bay (17-14) hold ninth-seeded Milwaukee (8-24) to just 26.5 percent shooting and outrebound the Panthers 47-35 as the Phoenix posted a 62-46 victory in the opening round of the Horizon League Championship at the Resch Center. With the win, Green Bay polished off a three-game season sweep of its in-state league rival and advanced to Friday quarterfinals in Valparaiso, Ind., where the Phoenix will play fifth-seeded UIC at 7:30 p.m.
Milwaukee's shooting percentage, which included a 5-of-24 effort from long range, is a season low for a Division I Phoenix opponent this season. In the three-game sweep, Green Bay held Milwaukee to 19.7 percent from three (12-61).
Freshman Jordan Fouse (Racine, Wis.) led the charge on Tuesday, tallying 12 points, 11 rebounds, three blocked shots and three steals. The member of the Horizon League's All-Newcomer and All-Defensive Teams had nine points and six rebounds at the half as the Phoenix led 27-21 despite shooting 28.1 percent. After missing its first nine shots of the game, Green Bay went 20-of-50 the rest of the night.
Fouse's defense jumpstarted the second half for Green Bay as it turned the halftime margin into a 16-point lead with a 12-2 spurt coming out of halftime. The freshman blocked a shot on the first Panther possession, which led to a three from junior Alec Brown (Winona, Minn.). Fouse then jumped a lane for a steal on the next play, starting a fastbreak which led to a pair of free throws from sophomore Keifer Sykes (Chicago, Ill.).
Brown and Sykes, Green Bay's All-Horizon League duo, backed up their accolades in the second half. Both players scored 12 points after the break, answering each Milwaukee run and scoring the home team's final 11 points of the night.
After combining for 51 points in the first two wins over Milwaukee, Brown scored 18 points and grabbed six rebounds on Tuesday night. Sykes, who has scored 82 of his 111 points in the second half in the past six games against league opponents, finished with 16 points, six rebounds and five assists. He also made all eight of his free throws to improve to 150-of-181 on the season. With 150 free throws made, Sykes breaks the program's Division I record for free throws in a season and is just one shy of the overall record of 151 set by Ron Ripley in 1978-79.
Sophomore Greg Mays (Chicago, Ill.) helped the Phoenix outrebound Milwaukee by 12, grabbing 10 boards in just 21 minutes of play. He also had one of the team's eight blocks, which came just one shy of the tournament record.
Green Bay had just eight turnovers, including three on offensive fouls, and no Phoenix player committed more than one miscue on the night.
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