By: Andrew Gavin (@GBGavin)
GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) – With the regular season title and the top seed in next week’s Horizon League Tournament clinched thanks to a 67-53 home win over Valparaiso last Thursday, Green Bay gets back to business and back to the road this weekend with contests at Oakland and Detroit. Winners of eight of its last nine conference road games, the Phoenix is 5-1 away from home in HL play in 2013-14.
On Thursday night at 7 p.m. CST, Green Bay will visit the O’Rena in Rochester, Mich., to take on Horizon League newcomer Oakland (11-18, 6-8 HL). The contest against the Golden Grizzlies, who the Phoenix defeated 83-69 back on Jan. 22 at the Resch Center, will be televised live by ESPNU.
In Horizon League road games, Alec Brown (21.6) and Keifer Sykes (20.7) have combined to average 42.3 points per game. Green Bay is unbeaten on the road (5-0) in those contests with Brown in uniform, with the 7-foot-1 post shooting 60.3 percent from the field.
Among the best in the country, Green Bay’s defense has been stellar in its current three-game winning streak. The Phoenix has held Youngstown State, Cleveland State and Valparaiso to 49 points per game on 32.9 percent shooting from the field. The Phoenix ranks first nationally in blocks per game (7.7) and 10th in field goal percentage defense (.386).
GREEN BAY PROBABLE STARTERS
G – #24 Keifer Sykes, G, Jr., 5-11, 175
G – #12 Carrington Love, G, So., 6-1, 171
F – #4 Jordan Fouse, F, So., 6-7, 225
F – #15 Greg Mays, F, Jr., 6-9, 222
C – #21 Alec Brown, C, Sr., 7-1, 235
LIVE COVERAGE: Thursday night’s game will be televised live by ESPNU and WatchESPN with Rich Hollenberg (play-by-play) and Adrian Branch (analyst) on the call. On WNFL 1440 AM, Matt Menzl and Andrew Gavin will bring fans a radio broadcast of the action.
INSIDE THE SERIES: Green Bay and Oakland have met just seven times, with the Phoenix holding a 4-3 lead in the series. Thursday’s game will be the fourth meeting between the programs in Rochester, but the first in Horizon League play.
FIRST MEETING: Junior Keifer Sykes (Chicago, Ill.) scored a game-high 27 points and added eight rebounds and six assists as Green Bay downed Oakland 83-69 on Jan. 22 at the Resch Center. Sophomore Carrington Love (Milwaukee, Wis.) made 5-of-6 shots from the field and scored 17 points as the Phoenix shot 26-of-52 from the field. Green Bay held OU’s Travis Bader to eight points on 2-of-13 shooting from the field and 2-of-11 from long range.
CROWNED CHAMPIONS: For the first time in 18 years, Green Bay has clinched at least a share of the regular season conference title. The 1995-96 Phoenix squad finished at 25-4 overall and posted a perfect 16-0 mark in conference play.
RECEIVING VOTES: For the first time this season, Green Bay is receiving votes in both the Associated Press and the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll.
STANDING TALL ALONE: In four years with the Phoenix, Brown has put himself among the all-time greats in program league history. The Winona, Minn., native enters Thursday ranking in Green Bay’s top-10 with 1,633 points (7th), 782 rebounds (3rd) and 301 career blocks (1st). Brown is the program’s leading rebounder at the Division I level and the lone player in Horizon League history to post 1,500-plus points, 750-plus rebounds and 250-plus blocks.
BROWN’S BLOCKS: The program’s all-time leading shot blocker, Brown holds the top-four single-season rejection totals at Green Bay (59, 67, 86, 89) and needs four to break his own record. With Brown on the roster, Green Bay has broken the team record for blocks in four-straight seasons and this season has blocked a Horizon League record 207 shots. Including 12 blocks against Valparaiso, all 10 of the top single-game efforts have happened in Brown’s career.
SOPHOMORE STEALS: With 62 steals this season, sophomore Jordan Fouse (Racine, Wis.) is just six shy of breaking the Green Bay single-season record of 67 set by Terry Evans in 2008-09. Already ranking ninth in Phoenix history in career steals (117), Fouse holds the program’s freshman and sophomore records.
ANOTHER RECORD IN REACH: With 301 career blocks, Brown is chasing the Horizon League career blocks record of 309 set last season by Youngstown State’s Damian Eargle.
MOVING ON UP: Brown is seventh in Green Bay history in scoring (1,633 points). Sykes has scored 1,422 career points needs 20 more points to move into the top-10.
SYKES SET APART: Ranking tied for 20th nationally in points per game, Sykes is one of only two players nationally in the country (Canisius’ Billy Baron) averaging 20-plus points (20.3), five-plus assists (5.0) and four-plus rebounds per game (4.4).
DEFENSIVE STAND: Holding the Horizon’s League’s top-scoring offense to 40 points last Thursday at Youngstown State was remarkable in and of itself, but it also marked the best defensive effort by the Phoenix against a league opponent in more than a decade. Green Bay had not allowed 40 points in a conference game since Feb. 18, 1999, and it was the largest margin of victory in HL play since 2001-02.
CHARITY WORK: This season, Sykes has made 172 free throws to break his own single-season program record for free throws made (159), set in 2012-13. Sykes leads the Horizon League and ranks tenth nationally in free throws made. With 399 free throws made in his career, Sykes already ranks fourth in program history.
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