|Posted by Brian Dickmann on January 15, 2015 at 10:15 PM|
If there was any glimmer of hope that the Green Bay Phoenix mens basketball team could make the NCAA Tournament as an at-large bid, those hopes were eliminated Thursday night in Rochester, Michigan.
The Phoenix fell 69-66 to the Oakland Grizzlies at the Athletics Center O'rena as a last second Keifer Sykes three pointer fell short.
To be fair, the Grizzlies (6-12, 2-2 Horizon) are tough to beat at home. The win improved Oakland to 47-9 in their last 56 home games, including knocking off another Horizon League favorite, Valparaiso, earlier this season.
But still, a Green Bay team that had at-large NCAA aspirations needs to win games like this. The Grizzlies came into the game ranked 205th in the RPI rankings.
"Overall, we really didn't deserve to win that game, to be quite honest," head coach Brian Wardle said after the game. "I thought Oakland played more desperate than we did. We had our moments to steal one, we were right there in the end. We just couldn't come up with the big plays and the big stops defensively."
Oakland improved to 5-0 on the season when shooting above 40% from three point land. The Grizzlies take more three pointers and make more three pointers than any other team in the conference. And on a night when they retired the #3 jersey of Travis Bader, the NCAA's all-time three point king, they shot 42.1% (8-19) from downtown.
Green Bay (14-4, 3-1 Horizon) on the other hand, shot a miserable 14.3% (2-14) from beyond the arc.
"I thought we had some great looks," Wardle said. "We have to step up and make them."
Sophomore phenom Kahlil Felder led the way for the Grizzlies, scoring 20 points to go along with 10 assists and 6 rebounds. Oakland shot over 60% from the floor in the first half and finished the game shooting 47.9%.
The Phoenix led for just 47 seconds of the game. Still, they were in it until the end. They were unable to get the necessary stops or grab crucial rebounds when it mattered most. Specifically, Corey Petros and Jalen Hayes made big plays down the stretch.
"Hayes and Petros really hurt us on the glass," said Wardle. "Every time we needed that big stop, we'd get them to miss but one of those guys would get the offensive rebound. That comes down to our front line has got to compete better down there and go get the ball."
Even after all that, a Keifer Sykes layup with 48 seconds left cut the Oakland lead to 69-66. The Phoenix decided to play defense rather than foul and send the Grizzlies to the line, and it paid off when Tommie McCune missed a shot with 12.2 seconds to go.
That set up Sykes for the last second look for the tie, with his three point attempt falling just short.
"I thought it was a good look, he just came up a little short," Wardle said. "We had a clean look in the corner for 3 with our best player, one of the best players in the nation."
Green Bay had 4 players score in double figures, led by Sykes with 19 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds. Greg Mays finished with 15 points and 6 rebounds while Carrington Love added 12 points and 4 assists. Jordan Fouse battled foul trouble in the first half, but still was able to finish with 11 points and 8 rebounds.
In suffering their first Horizon League loss, the Phoenix slipped into a second place tie with Valparaiso and Detroit at 3-1. Cleveland State (4-1) currently sits in first place. The only way any Horizon League team is making the NCAA Tournament this season is by winning the conference tournament.
Green Bay's next game is Saturday afternoon at 2:00 when they travel to face the Detroit Titans. Detroit beat Oakland 74-54 last Saturday at Calihan Hall and will look to move to 4-1 in conference play. A big crowd is expected with it being Homecoming and a "white out." The game can be seen on ESPN3.
Categories: Game Recaps