|Posted by Brian Dickmann on November 25, 2015 at 9:55 AM|
Photo: Matt Ludtke / Green Bay Athletics
Defensively, Tuesday night’s performance was the best so far this season for Green Bay.
Playing their 5th game in 12 days, the Phoenix hung on for a 66-63 victory over the Akron Zips at the Resch Center on Tuesday night in their last game as part of the NIT Season Tip-off. The win gives head coach Linc Darner his first career Division I victory after his first victory at GB came Sunday afternoon in a 94-74 victory over Division II opponent Minnesota-Duluth.
Green Bay (2-3) came into Tuesday’s game allowing its previous three Division I opponents an average of 101.0 points per game and allowed them to shoot over 50% from the floor and 38% from beyond the arc.
Facing an Akron team that came into the game shooting 44.9% from the floor and 38.9% from downtown, the Phoenix knew they needed to step up the defense.
And step up they did.
Green Bay forced the Zips (3-2) into 17 turnovers and out-rebounded the bigger, taller Akron players 52-45. They were held to 35.0% shooting from the floor and hit just 7-24 (29.2%) of their three point attempts.
“The three’s they hit were open looks,” Green Bay assistant coach Richard Davis said after the game. “Every other three we had a hand in their face; we made them shoot deep threes. The ones they got were open looks when we had a breakdown defensively of guys in a bad position or stance and so forth, he commits when it’s something that he shouldn’t, and gives up an open shot to a really good three point shooter.”
“For the most part, 7/24, we did a heck of a job. They’re shooting 40% as a team from three so we’ll take 29% all day.”
And thankfully the defense was able to step up because offensively, Green Bay did not have their finest effort. The Phoenix shot just 22-68 (32.4%) from the floor, including 2-13 (15.4%) from beyond the arc.
They hit just 20-37 (54.1%) from the free throw line, something that allowed the Zips to have two good looks in the final seconds of the game to make a go-ahead basket or tie the game.
The Phoenix dominated the hustle points, however. They outscored Akron 40-28 in the paint, 23-15 in bench scoring, and collected 20 offensive rebounds that led to 21 second chance points.
Charles Cooper led the scoring for Green Bay with 14 points. He was the only Phoenix player in double figures in a balanced attack that featured Jordan Fouse scoring 9, Khalil Small and Carrington Love each scoring 8, and Kenneth Lowe chipping in 7.
For Love, who had entered Tuesday night’s game averaging 20.8 points per game, it was a tough night shooting the ball, going 2-11 from the floor, including 0-4 from downtown. He also struggled at the free throw line making just 4-9. He was able to contribute in other ways, however, adding 4 steals and 3 rebounds.
“Everybody knows Carrington Love is our engine and as he goes we go,” Davis said. “But tonight he struggled and he struggled big time. But we just kept preaching on the bench to everybody if you’re not scoring it’s fine, do other things. As you saw, Carrington is out there diving on the floor for loose balls, getting tips that are leading to breakaway layups and so forth.”
For Fouse, an All-Horizon First Team preseason selection, he set a career high grabbing 16 rebounds, 9 of which were offensive rebounds. He finished with 9 points, 16 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal.
“Jordan does a lot of things for us,” said Davis. “He hasn’t been shooting the ball particularly well, but he doesn’t get too down. He knows that one thing he can do is he can rebound. You saw him in the game, he’s going after every rebound and that’s what we need from him.”
The Phoenix had 9 players play 12 minutes or more in the game and got solid contributions off the bench, especially from junior guard Tevin Findlay.
Findlay was 2-3 from the floor and a perfect 2-2 from the charity stripe, finishing with 6 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, and an assist in 14 minutes of play.
Also, Anthony Brown, a 6’ 1” true freshman guard, made his second consecutive start and had 5 points, including a breakaway dunk, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal in 20 minutes.
“Everybody did their job….team effort,” said Davis. “We missed a lot of easy shots. But, we stayed in there and kept grinding away.”
To be sure, there is plenty of room for improvement. Shooting a 54% clip from the free throw line isn’t going to be good enough to win many tight games. Even making (20-37) as many as Akron attempted (14-20) almost wasn’t enough. But, free throw shooting has been an issue the past few seasons for the Phoenix and may not change until Darner is able to turn over the roster.
“If we can get to the free throw line and double up our opponent’s attempts like we did tonight, that’s always great,” Davis said. “We’ll take our chances on making those. We work on it. We work, work, work, and work but you gotta keep shooting, repetition.”
“Some guys just aren’t great free throw shooters.”
The schedule lightens up considerably after the upcoming weekend which sees Green Bay head for away games at Eastern Illinois on Saturday and at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville on Monday night. After that, the Phoenix will play just 5 games total in the month of December.
As long as the team shows effort and improvement, like tonight’s victory where the Phoenix were a 3.5 point home underdog, the coaching staff will be happy. And so should fans.
“You gotta improve game by game,” said Davis. “We knew coming out that our first 3 games would be really, really tough. We knew it would be tough but as we say, it’s about how we’re playing come tournament time. Everyday we’re improving like right here, we gutted it out tonight.”
“Sometimes we’re not going to be able to get up and down and score 90 points, we’re going to have to sit down and defend sometimes and grind it out.”
Categories: Game Recaps