GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - With stifling zone defense and another standout performance (20 points) by sophomore Keifer Sykes (Chicago, Ill.), Green Bay (4-7) finally had a nailbiter go its way on Wednesday night, and it happened on a big stage. With Marquette (7-3) visiting Green Bay for the first time in 12 all-time meetings, the Phoenix got 20 points from Sykes and held the Golden Eagles to just 16 second-half points in a 49-47 victory in non-conference men's basketball action in front of 6,733 fans at the Resch Center.
The hard-fought win was the first for the program over Marquette since Jan. 7, 1995, when Green Bay won 50-48 in Milwaukee. Each of the prior 11 meetings in the series were played on Marquette's home floor. It also came at the expense of head coach Brian Wardle's alma mater, where he starred from 1997-2001 and is still the seventh all-time leading scorer.
The game was knotted at 44 with 4:27 to play before Sykes corralled a long rebound and was fouled heading to the rim. The sophomore point guard, who reached 20 or more points for the fourth time this season, split his trip to the line, but his free throw gave the Phoenix the lead for good.
After a steal by freshman Jordan Fouse (Racine, Wis.) on the ensuing possession, junior Alec Brown (Winona, Minn.) got a feed from Fouse and made a short jumper in the lane. After a missed Marquette free throw, sophomore Greg Mays (Chicago, Ill.) split a pair at the line for a four-point lead (48-44) with 1:51 remaining.
Marquette's Davonte Gardner kept the Eagles close with a three-point play, and the visitors got a stop on the other end with just under 50 seconds to play. Vander Blue was fouled with 35 seconds remaining and missed the front end of the one-and-one, but a long rebound was grabbed by Blue.
Golden Eagle head coach Buzz Williams called timeout with 11 seconds left to draw up a play, and Jake Thomas took a three from the left wing. The junior's shot misfired and Brown held off Gardner for a big rebound with 1.5 seconds on the clock. Brown was fouled and calmly made the first before missing his second on purpose to help the clock expire.
Green Bay led by as many as nine in the opening half before the visitors went to the locker room with a 31-29 lead.
The Phoenix, with just eight players in uniform, played almost exclusively zone and slowed the Marquette offense in the second half. The Golden Eagles made just 6-of-22 shots from the field, including a 1-for-9 effort from long range. The Phoenix also forced seven turnovers after halftime while committing only four. The strong defense and connecting on eight more free throws on the night helped Green Bay overcome 38.6 percent shooting, including a 5-of-20 shooting effort in the second half.
Sykes had 11 points at the break and finished with 20 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field and a 9-of-13 effort from the free-throw line. Sykes also added five assists and four rebounds and did not turn the ball over against the BIG EAST opponent. Green Bay made 12-of-19 free throws while the Golden Eagles hit just 4-of-9 from the stripe.
Mays, making his second-straight start, had a season-high 11 points to go with five rebounds and three blocked shots. Brown finished with nine points and seven rebounds. Sykes, Mays and Brown were the only Phoenix players to score in the second half other than a free throw from Fouse.
Jamil Wilson led the Golden Eagles with 16 points but had just two points after halftime. Blue, Marquette's leading scorer, was held to only five points on 2-of-10 shooting.
In the midst of a four-game homestand, Green Bay welcomes South Dakota to the Resch Center on Saturday night at 7 p.m. The Phoenix will then play its final tune-up for Horizon League play on Dec. 30 against Illinois-Springfield.
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.
For the latest and most up-to-date information on Green Bay Athletics, please visit GreenBayPhoenix.com.Green Bay Phoenix men's basketball and Green Bay Phoenix Athletics on Facebook.