By: Andrew Gavin (@GBGavin)
GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) – Juniors Greg Mays (Chicago, Ill.) and Keifer Sykes (Chicago, Ill.) combined for 45 points, helping Green Bay (5-2) shoot over 50 percent from the field against one of the nation’s top defensive teams and defeat visiting Virginia (7-3) 75-72 in non-conference men’s basketball action at the Resch Center. The Cavaliers are receiving votes in both national top-25 polls.
The win put an exclamation point on an exciting weekend for the program, which welcomed back Phoenix Hall of Famer and all-time leading scorer Tony Bennett. Virginia’s head coach, who played for Green Bay from 1988-92 and scored 2,285 points in a Phoenix uniform, was honored with a video tribute prior to the game.
Playing in front of the former Phoenix point guard, Sykes was honored before the game for joining the 1,000-point club. The 5-foot-11 guard then played 38 minutes, scored 21 points and dished out 10 assists, and accomplished something achieved by no other player in the program’s Division I history – including Bennett – to score 20 or more points in six-straight games.
The first assist for Sykes led to the first points of the game, when Mays dunked home an alley-oop pass from Sykes for a 2-0 lead. The 6-foot-9 Mays continued his strong play from there, finishing with a career-high 24 points and grabbing five rebounds.
Mays had 12 points in the first half as head coach Brian Wardle’s team recovered from an early 9-4 deficit and led 37-31 at halftime. The Phoenix shot 56 percent (14-25) in the first 20 minutes and forced Virginia into 11 turnovers.
The Cavaliers scored the first four points of the second half, but Mays hit his first three-pointer of the season to start an 11-0 run which was capped by back-to-back three-pointers from sophomore Carrington Love (Milwaukee, Wis.). After Love’s third triple of the night ended the run, Green Bay was in front 48-35 with 16:23 remaining.
Green Bay was still in front by 11 (60-49) with 8:56 remaining, but Virginia used a 13-3 run of its own to close the deficit to just 63-62 at the 4:01 mark.
Mays threw down his third dunk of the game, putting Green Bay ahead 69-66 with just over two minutes to play, but Malcolm Brogdon answered with a three to tie the game at 69-69.
On the ensuing possession, Sykes found Mays in the lane for a Green Bay lead, and sophomore Jordan Fouse (Racine, Wis.) grabbed his program-record eighth steal of the night and scored a layup for a four-point lead (73-69) with 1:16 to play.
Virginia drained another three-pointer to cut the margin to 73-72 and got a defensive stop, but Joe Harris missed a three-pointer with 10 seconds on the clock. Sykes was fouled with 8.7 seconds left, and the junior made both for a three-point lead (75-72).
The Cavaliers called a timeout with 3.9 seconds remaining, but Justin Anderson’s three at the buzzer bounced off the rim and the Phoenix had posted a signature victory.
Virginia entered the game allowing the second-fewest points per game in the nation and ranked eighth nationally in field goal percentage defense (36.2 percent). Green Bay shot 51 percent from the field (26-51), 50 percent from long range (7-14) and scored more points than any Cavalier opponent this season.
The Phoenix had 18 assists and only eight turnovers, and Virginia finished with 11 assists and 14 turnovers. Led by Fouse’s 8, Green Bay finished with 12 steals.
Green Bay hits the road for two games this week, playing at Eastern Michigan on Tuesday at 6 p.m. and at South Dakota on Saturday at 7 p.m.
All tickets for the 2013-14 men’s basketball season 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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