GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - Sophomore Keifer Sykes (Chicago, Ill.) kept rolling with a game-high 22 points on Saturday night, but visiting Southern Illinois (5-2) scored four points late and made an uncharacteristically high percentage from the foul line to deal short-handed Green Bay (3-7) a 72-70 loss, its first home non-conference setback since Dec. 8, 2010. The Phoenix suited up just eight players for the contest.
In what started as a back-and-forth affair, Green Bay led by as many as eight points in the opening half thanks to Sykes and a balanced offense which got points from seven different players. The opening 20 minutes featured 22 fouls and 35 free throws, and the Phoenix connected on 19-of-22 from the line to lead 41-37 at intermission.
The second 20 minutes included seven ties and seven lead changes, with Green Bay holding a six-point advantage on five different occasions. Midway through the half, the teams traded three-pointers on five out or six possessions. After SIU's T.J. Lindsay made the last in the stretch, Sykes scored on an old-fashioned three-point play. After Lindsay scored on a layup, Sykes answered again with a layup to make it 62-56 with 7:59 to play.
Including four free throws, the Salukis would score the next eight points to grab a two-point edge at the 4:10 mark before Sykes converted another three-point play to give Green Bay a 65-64 lead with the clock at 4:00. SIU entered the game shooting just 63.4 percent from the line but connected on 16-of-19 free throws (84.2%).
With the game tied at 66, Desmar Jackson put SIU ahead before sophomore Greg Mays (Chicago, Ill.), making his first career start, made a pair of free throws for the game's 11th tie (68-68). Mays made all three of his field goals and had eight points, three rebounds and two blocked shots.
Southern Illinois' Josh Swan made a ridiculous layup on the next possession over the outstretched arms of junior Alec Brown (Winona, Minn.), and after a turnover by junior Kam Cerroni (Sussex, Wis.), SIU went ahead by four with 1:04 to play.
Sykes was fouled on the ensuing possession and knocked down both free throws, and a steal gave Green Bay the ball with 4.5 seconds to play. The Phoenix got the ball into Sykes, but his runner in the lane would not fall.
Despite the final play and outcome, it was yet another home terrific performance for Sykes, who upped his average to 16.4 points per game this season and 24.7 points per game at home. The Chicago native made 5-of-13 shots from the field but converted 11-of-13 free throws and added a season-high five assists.
Cerroni made a trio of three-pointers and hit all five of his free throws to finish with 14 points off the bench while Brown added 10 points and seven rebounds. Cerroni is now 21-of-21 from the free throw line in 2012-13 and has made 36 in a row dating back to last season. As a team, Green Bay finished 26-of-31 from the stripe for 83.9 percent.
The Phoenix continues its four-game homestand on Wednesday, hosting Marquette in Green Bay for the first time at 7 p.m. To purchase tickets for the game, call 920.465.2625 or visit the athletics department offices in the Kress Events Center between 8-4:30 on Monday and Tuesday or access GreenBayPhoenix.com/tickets.
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