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Rivalry showdown set for Friday night

Posted by Brian Dickmann on January 4, 2017 at 1:20 PM

Photo via Green Bay Athletics




The 54th meeting as Division I programs between the Green Bay Phoenix and the Milwaukee Panthers will have a slightly different feel – and significantly less star power – when the two programs renew their rivalry Friday night at the Resch Center in Ashwaubenon.


Long gone are Green Bay greats like Alec Brown, Keifer Sykes, Carrington Love, and Jordan Fouse as well as Milwaukee stars like Jordan Aaron, JJ Panoske, Matt Tiby, and Akeem Springs.


For now, the teams appear to be heading in two different directions with Green Bay coming off a conference tournament championship and an NCAA Tournament appearance while Milwaukee is in full-on rebuilding mode.


But as the old adage goes, you can throw out the records when these two in-state rivals meet.


The Phoenix lead the all-time series with Milwaukee 34-24, including a 20-9 advantage in Green Bay. However, since 2010 the series is a tight 9-6 overall in Green Bay’s favor. The Phoenix won the season series 2-1 a season ago.


In the first meeting last season, Green Bay led 92-88 with 1:41 left before the Panthers came back to win a thriller at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, 95-94.


In the second meeting, the Phoenix missed several key free throws but hung on for a 70-68 victory at the Resch Center after Austin Arians missed a long three point attempt at the buzzer that would have won the game for the Panthers.


In the teams' final meeting last season, it would be Green Bay that knocked Milwaukee out of the Horizon League Tournament quarterfinals last March in what would ultimately be Rob Jeter’s final game as the Panthers’ head coach. The Phoenix would go on to win the conference tournament for the first time since 1996.


Since Milwaukee’s historic Horizon League Tournament semifinal victory at the Resch Center in 2014, Green Bay has gone 4-1 against the Panthers with the lone loss being last season’s thriller in Milwaukee.


In that span both programs have endured a coaching change with Linc Darner guiding the Phoenix to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 20 years last season in his first year in Green Bay.


Milwaukee’s new head man, former Butler star and Michigan assistant coach LaVall Jordan, has the Panthers off to a 4-11 start as he looks to turn around a program in upheaval after the controversial firing of Jeter after last season.


This season, Jordan has his players playing hard. The Panthers (4-11) posted a win against Division III MSOE as well victories over UC-Irvine, Jacksonville, and Montana State but have lost their last 6 games in a row, including an 0-2 Ohio road swing to start the Horizon League season. They lost in double overtime, 88-87, at Youngstown State before falling 62-53 at Cleveland State on Saturday.


“Guys have good energy and they’re coachable,” the new coach recently told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “Now we’re trying to build a competitive mind-set and skill-set. They’re learning us. We’re evaluating a lot of new faces. Role definition hasn’t necessarily taken place yet.”


As for Green Bay, they will look to continue to build on momentum from a 2-0 start to the conference season on the same Ohio road trip with wins coming at Cleveland State on Thursday and at Youngstown State on New Year’s Eve.


The Phoenix (8-6) return to the Resch Center for what will be just their 5th home game of the season on Friday night. Green Bay went 3-6 earlier this season during a nine game stretch in which they played eight games away from the Resch Center.


“I don’t know how many people win eight out of nine on the road in non-league play that are at our level,” Darner said, via the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “We had a lot of teams in our league that played seven, eight home games. Those help you. …just being on the road so long, I think it took a little bit of a toll on us.”


“Hopefully, now that we have played a couple at home we will get on a little bit of a roll.”


For the past six seasons, the Resch Center has been a fortress for Green Bay. The Phoenix are 126-60 (.660%) overall since 2010 but at home Green Bay is an impressive 74-18 (.804%), good for second in the conference behind only Valparaiso’s 93-18 (.838%).


In what will be the Phoenix longest home stretch of the season, Green Bay will play five of their next six games at home. The Phoenix will face Northern Kentucky and Wright State at home before travelling to Valparaiso. They then return home for two more games against Youngstown State and Cleveland State.


But first things first is Friday night at 7:00 against their archrivals in what should be a great atmosphere. It is also Bud Light Night, meaning fans can buy 24-ounce Bud Light for $2.


A Friday night rivalry game featuring cheap beer, what more could you ask for?




 

Categories: Phoenix Preview

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