Phoenix and Flames Primed for Friday Night Quarterfinal
GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - Green Bay (17-14) faced an opponent for the second time in a week in the first round of the Horizon League Championship, beating Milwaukee 62-46 on Tuesday night. In the quarterfinals on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in Valparaiso, Ind., the Phoenix meets No. 5 seed UIC (17-14), a team that it has not played since Jan. 31. The Flames won that game in Chicago, earning a series split after Green Bay won another closely contested game 53-47 back on Jan. 12. Since Jan. 31, Green Bay has won six of its nine games while UIC is 3-6.
In the three seasons in which head coaches Brian Wardle and Howard Moore have been on the sidelines for Green Bay and UIC, five of the six meetings have been decided by single digits, with the Phoenix holding a 4-2 edge.
Big men have dominated this season's meetings, with junior Alec Brown (Winona, MInn.) scoring 21 points in the Phoenix win and UIC's Josh Crittle scoring the game's final six points in the Flames' 63-57 victory. Chicago native Keifer Sykes averaged 12.5 points in the two meetings.
TICKET INFORMATION: Tickets can be purchased for Friday and Saturday by visiting ValpoAthletics.com, calling 219-464-5233 or by visiting the Valparaiso University Ticket Office, located in the main lobby of the ARC (extended hours of 10 a.m.-7 p.m. this week). Tickets for Friday's pair of second-round games are $10 general admission seating for the session, while groups of 10 or more are $7 each and Horizon League students are free with their student ID.
FOLLOW THE PHOENIX: Fans unable to make it to Valparaiso on Friday night will be able to watch the game live on the Horizon League Network and on ESPN3 with Jim Barbar (play-by-play), David Kaplan (color analyst) and Will Haskett (sideline) on the call. On the radio, the play-by-play voice of the Phoenix Matt Menzl will be on the call alongside Andrew Gavin on WDUZ The Fan 1400 AM or thefan1075.com. Live stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com. You can also stay up-to-date by following @GBPhoenixMBB and @GBGavin on Twitter.
1. TOURNAMENT TIME: Green Bay's first round victory over Milwaukee improved the program to 15-17 overall in the Horizon League Championship. The Phoenix won the title in 1995 and last advanced to the championship game in 1998. The program is looking to advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2009, when the Phoenix earned a double bye.
2. COMPETE, DEFEND, REBOUND: Wardle has stressed this phrase and this emphasis since he was hired prior to the 2010-11 season, and it highlights the team's strengths in 2012-13. Green Bay led the Horizon League in field goal percentage defense, blocked shots and rebounding margin in conference play. In its opening round win over Milwaukee, all three of those stats were on display as the Panthers shot just 26.5 percent, had eight shots blocked and were outrebounded by 12. It was the fifth time this season a Phoenix opponent failed to reach 50 points, the most since 2000-01. Green Bay is 14-0 this season when holding teams below 60 points.
3. LAUDED ALL-LEAGUE: Sykes, Brown and freshman Jordan Fouse (Racine, Wis.) were all honored by the Horizon League on Monday with postseason accolades. Sykes, who ranks in the top-5 in the conference in points and assists, was named to the first team while Brown was a second-team selection after averaging 15.6 points in league play. Fouse, who led the conference in rebounding, was the runner-up for Newcomer of the Year and named to the All-Newcomer team.
• THE SEASON SERIES: If the first two meetings are any indication, expect a low-scoring, defensive-minded game on Friday night. Green Bay won a game in which it shot just 36.2 percent but lost shooting 48.8 percent. The Phoenix was plus-6 on the boards in the first meeting but was outrebounded by five in the loss in Chicago. UIC is one of just two league teams to beat the Phoenix on the boards in a game. The teams are 1-2 in the conference in free-throw percentage, with Green Bay shooting 75.6 and UIC shooting 75 percent. The Phoenix has made 74 more free throws on the season, including six more against the Flames.
• SECOND-HALF SYKES: Sykes, one of just two Horizon League players to be named Player of the Week at least three times this season, has done the majority of his damage in the clutch. In the past seven games against Horizon League foes, he has scored 98 of his 127 points in the second half or overtime, averaging 14 points after halftime. For the season, Sykes averages 9.3 points per game after halftime.
• INSIDE AND OUTSIDE THE ARC: Brown has played the best basketball of his career down the stretch this season. The 7-foot-1 Brown has 1,163 career points, and against League opponents this season he is averaging 15.8 points per game. Since the beginning of February against conference foes, Brown is averaging 18.3 and 2.5 blocks per game. In those eight games, he is shooting 53 percent from the field (53-100), 52.2 percent from long range (12-23) and 71.8 percent from the free-throw line (71.8).
• DOMINANT DEFENSIVE DUO: Brown and Fouse both were named to the five-player All-Defensive Team after helping the Phoenix rank first in field goal percentage defense, rebounding and blocked shots in league play. Brown and Fouse are the first Phoenix players to be named all-defense since 2008-09 and the first Green Bay duo on the team since 1997-98. In addition, Fouse is the first freshman in the conference to be named to the All-Defensive Team since another Phoenix player, Terry Evans in 2005-06, and the first freshman to lead the Horizon League in rebounding since Northern Illinois' T.J. Lux in 1995-96.
• TOP OF THE CLASS: Fouse's rookie campaign has included impressive consistency, leading towards the broken records and impressive streaks. Fouse is now the holder of Green Bay's freshman records for rebounds (239) and steals (55) in a season. His 46 blocks are the sixth-most by any Phoenix player, and with two more he will have more blocks in a season than any Green Bay player not named Alec Brown. Fouse has grabbed at least five rebounds in 16-straight games and has blocked at least one shot in 20 consecutive contests.
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