|Posted by Brian Dickmann on January 9, 2017 at 5:00 PM|
Photo: Peter G. Aiken / Getty Images
Much of Green Bay’s perfect start to Horizon League play can be contributed to the resurgence of senior guard Charles Cooper.
Like the team as a whole, the 6’4” Gary, Indiana native’s play was inconsistent during the nonconference portion of the season and was a large factor in the Phoenix 6-6 start to the season.
When a knee injury forced him to sit out Green Bay’s 108-59 walloping of lowly Saint Mary’s (MN) on December 22nd, head coach Linc Darner inserted Kerem Kanter into the starting lineup forcing Cooper into a 6th man role off the bench when he returned – a role in which he has flourished so far.
Since coming off the bench, Cooper ranks 2nd in the Horizon League scoring 20.3 points per game and 8th in the conference in rebounding at 7.7 per game. Green Bay is 3-0 in that stretch and has won five in a row overall dating back to December 19th.
“Everybody’s starting to identify themselves, staying into their roles,” Cooper said following Green Bay’s 70-64 victory over in-state rival Milwaukee. “We’re doing pretty good.”
“Last year we didn’t get a 5 game win streak, this year we did,” he said. “We also didn’t get a sweep last year on the road so I think that’s a plus.”
Overall this season, Cooper is Green Bay’s leading scorer and has quietly entered the Horizon League’s top ten scoring leaders at 14.0 per game. In 27.0 minutes per game, he’s also grabbing 5.5 rebounds to go along with 1.5 assists and 1.1 steals.
Cooper was named the Horizon League Player of the Week for the first time in his career following the Phoenix 2-0 Ohio road trip last week.
“I play the same amount of minutes any way, and we are winning,” Cooper said, via the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “What is the point of me starting? We are still winning and I’m still helping the team out a lot.”
Along with impressive production from Kanter, Cooper’s play has been a catalyst for a Green Bay team that has been playing well and is currently in the middle of their longest stretch of home games of the season. The Phoenix will play four of their next five games at the Resch Center.
“We’ve played decent here,” Darner said Friday after the win against UWM. “We haven’t played great the whole game but we’ve had really good moments and we’ve got to continue that. This is a big stretch, we’ve got 4 of the next 5 at home. Tuesday night we’ve got a really good Northern Kentucky team coming in.”
Green Bay (9-6, 3-0) will look to keep the momentum going against an equally hot NKU team Tuesday night. The Norse (12-5, 3-1) are having their best season as a Division I program and lost their lone conference game on the road at league-leading Oakland on New Year’s Eve but have won two in a row since.
Northern Kentucky is led by a blend of upperclassmen as well as young players. Their leading scorer, 6’8” sophomore forward Drew McDonald, was named the Horizon League Player of the Week on Monday after going off for 37 points in an 83-75 victory over Cleveland State on Saturday. He is currently 5th in the conference in scoring at 16.7 points per game.
Other players to watch include 6’1” junior LaVone Holland, 6’7” senior Cole Murray, and 6’5” freshman phenom Carson Williams, all of which average double figures in scoring.
Green Bay swept the Norse last season in NKU’s first season as a Horizon League member. With a wide open conference so far this season, Northern Kentucky seems up to the challenge setting up what should be a fantastic game Tuesday night at the Resch Center.
“If you look at all the scores, every game seems to be a battle,” Darner said. “So we told our guys it doesn’t matter who you play in conference play.”
“When you get into conference play it’s going to be a battle.”
Categories: Phoenix Preview