By: Andrew Gavin (@GBGavin)
GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) – When the Green Bay men’s basketball team had its season-opening tournament in Atlanta cancelled just two weeks before the start of the 2013-14 season, fourth-year head coach Brian Wardle took the opportunity to give both the Phoenix fans and Phoenix players alike a chance for an extra game in Green Bay. The unlikely scenario also allowed a regular season game to be played on campus at the Kress Events Center for just the second time.
Green Bay will open its 2013-14 season on Saturday afternoon at the Kress, hosting Northern Michigan at 1 p.m. With all ticket package purchasers receiving a complimentary ticket, seating will be general admission with adult tickets priced at $5 and youth tickets sold for only $3.
Leading the Phoenix into the opener is the All-Horizon League duo of Alec Brown (Winona, Minn.) and Keifer Sykes (Chicago, Ill.). Both were among the top-three vote getters in Horizon League Preseason Player of the Year voting and are major reasons that the program was voted the conference’s preseason favorite for the first time since 1995.
Green Bay is 34-9 in home games under Wardle, including a 12-3 mark in 2012-13. Sykes was especially effective last season in Green Bay, averaging 16.5 points and five rebounds at home.
INSIDE THE SERIES: Green Bay and Northern Michigan have met 29 times previously, with the Phoenix holding a 19-10 edge and winning the past nine contests in the series. The last time the two squads played was on Nov. 18, 2009. The Phoenix won that meeting 70-64.
BACK WHERE IT ALL BEGAN: The Green Bay men’s basketball team has played only one previous regular season home game at the Kress Events, and that game happened to be Wardle’s head coaching debut and the first game of Alec Brown’s Phoenix career. On Nov. 13, 2010, Green Bay defeated Minnesota-Duluth 75-36. Brown started and played 18 minutes, registering seven points, six rebounds and six blocked shots.
HIGHS AND LOWS: The all-time series with Northern Michigan features some interesting scores, including two games in which the Phoenix scored 100 or more points. The 106 points Green Bay scored on Dec. 29, 2005 are tied for the most by a Phoenix team in the Division I era. On Nov. 22, 1996, Green Bay opened its season at home against Northern Michigan and posted a 46-21 win over the Wildcats. The game was 14-3 Phoenix at halftime, and the 21 points allowed are the fewest in program history.
SCOUTING THE WILDCATS: Northern Michigan is beginning its first season under the direction of Bill Sall, who spent the past 11 seasons as the head coach at Ferris State. The Wildcats return three players from last season’s squad. Northern Michigan was 5-21 a season ago.
WELCOMING WISCONSIN: Next Saturday, Green Bay will welcome No. 20/21 Wisconsin back to the Resch Center for the first time since 2009, when the Phoenix posted an 88-84 overtime victory. It was announced earlier this week that the two squads will compete in front of a sold out crowd of nearly 10,000 fans at the Resch Center.
COMPETE, DEFEND, REBOUND: This signature Brian Wardle mantra was on full display in 2012-13 for the Phoenix. In Horizon League play, Green Bay led the conference in rebounding margin, field goal percentage defense and blocked shots. With freshman Jordan Fouse (Racine, Wis.) grabbing 8.3 boards per game, Green Bay’s plus-6.4 was more than four rebounds clear of second place. Aided by a league-best 5.6 blocked shots per game, the Phoenix was also the only conference team to hold opponents below 40 percent from the field. Both were on full display in the team’s exhibition game, with the Phoenix claiming a 57-25 edge on the glass and holding the V-Hawks to just 24.1 percent from the field.
IN A LEAGUE OF HIS OWN: Brown will be in select company heading into this season. In fact, Brown will be in a group by himself as the nation’s only active player with 1,200-plus points, 600-plus rebounds and 200-plus blocks. The 7-foot-1 versatile post player is a two-time All-Horizon League player and was on the All-Defensive Team in 2012-13. Brown is only the second player in HL history to accumulate those career numbers and is on pace to be the first league player to finish his career with 1,500 points, 750 rebounds and 250 blocks.
FREE AND EASY: Led by Sykes, Green Bay led the Horizon League in free-throw percentage in conference play, shooting 75.2 percent from the charity stripe. Due to both quantity and quality, Sykes was a major reason why. The 5-foot-11 point guard raised his free-throw percentage by nearly 15 percent from 2011-12, hitting 81.5 percent. Sykes got to the line with great regularity, leading the Horizon League and breaking the school record for free throws made in a season with 159. Brown also made more than 100 free throws (109) and enters the 2013-14 season just outside of the program’s top-10 with 304 career free throws made.
All tickets for the 2013-14 men’s and women’s basketball seasons are on sale now. For more information about season tickets, ticket packages and more, please visit the ticketing page at GreenBayPhoenix.com.
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