By: Andrew Gavin (@GBGavin)
PEORIA, Ill. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) – Visiting Green Bay (18-16) held a lead for much of the second half at Bradley (17-16) on Wednesday night in the opening round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, but the host Braves, who are 13-4 at home this season, used a big advantage at the free-throw line to rally past the Phoenix 75-69 at Renaissance Coliseum. The loss ends the season for the Phoenix, who was making its ninth postseason appearance.
Behind the outside shooting touch of junior Alec Brown (Winona, Minn.) and the play of freshman Jordan Fouse (Racine, Wis.), Green Bay led 33-24 at halftime. Brown knocked down his first two three-pointers and had 12 of his 23 points in the first 20 minutes while Fouse had nine points and 10 rebounds at half. Brown finished the game 9-of-16 from the field and went over 1,200 points for his career.
Brown and sophomore Keifer Sykes (Chicago, Ill.) got off to a strong start in the second half, putting the Phoenix ahead by 11 early in the period. After the Braves had closed to five points, senior Brennan Cougill (Sioux City, Iowa) capped a 6-1 spurt and Green Bay led 49-39 with 12:43 remaining.
The host Braves chipped away at the lead from there on the strength of 16 free throw makes in the final 12 and a half minutes. During a 14-2 Bradley run that turned a nine-point deficit into a 61-58 lead, leading scorer Walt Lemon, Jr. scored 10 points.
After a timeout from head coach Brian Wardle, Brown converted a layup and foul on the next possession to tie the game at 61-61 with 4:26 to play. Bradley’s Tyshon Pickett scored the next four points for the Braves before a layup from Sykes made it 65-63 at the 2:53 mark.
Green Bay forced a miss and then got the ball in the hands of Greg Mays (Chicago, Ill.), but the sophomore missed in the paint before a technical foul was whistled on the Phoenix bench. Lemon, Jr., made the two free throws before another Sykes bucket at the 1:15 mark.
The Phoenix forced a desperation three at the end of the shot clock, but the ball bounced off the bottom of the backboard right to Will Egolf, who scored for a four-point lead with 40 seconds left and the Braves closed the game at the free-throw line.
Sykes scored 10 points after halftime and finished with 18 points and five assists without committing a turnover for the Phoenix. With 539 points this season, Sykes scored the eighth-most points in a season by any Phoenix player and the most by any sophomore in team history. The First-Team All-Horizon League point guard will enter his junior season with 874 career points, more than any Phoenix player through his sophomore season except Tony Bennett and Dennis Woeffler.
Senior Brennan Cougill (Sioux City, Iowa) scored all 10 of his points in the second half on Wednesday night and finished his two-year career with the Phoenix with 544 points and 368 rebounds.
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