|Posted by Brian Dickmann on January 24, 2017 at 4:00 PM|
Photo via Green Bay Athletics
The Green Bay Phoenix halted a two game skid Monday night by knocking off the Cleveland State Vikings at the Resch Center, 83-73, to keep within striking distance of first place Valparaiso.
Green Bay lost back to back games for the third time this season – first in blowout fashion at Valparaiso and then again on Friday in a disastrous 92-89 loss against Youngstown State, the program’s first home loss to the Penguins since 2003.
“We had a tough loss on Friday and I thought we did a good job bouncing back,” head coach Linc Darner said after the win on Monday. “If we want to stay where we want to try to compete to win the league, I thought this was a must win because if you go to three losses, you’re two games behind Valpo. That’s a long way to chase them.”
The Phoenix used a balanced scoring attack with five players scoring at least 9 points led by Charles Cooper’s 16 points off the bench with Warren Jones and Kerem Kanter chipping in 15 points each.
Green Bay’s bench outscored Cleveland State’s 52-9 in the game.
“It’s like that every night,” assistant coach Richard Davis told WNFL after the game. “If you look at our stats, we have two guys average double figures but then there’s three or four that average 9 points and then 8, 7.”
“That’s the thing about our offense, it’s an equal opportunity offense. Any given night it’s going to be anybody, anybody can score. But you need those guys that are consistently consistent too, we need Cooper to score to win.”
Green Bay lacked energy in the first half again on Monday, an issue the coaching staff believes cost them the game against Youngstown State on Friday. Cleveland State led by 8 midway through the first half before Darner made a rare “line change” by subbing all five players out of the game while he continued to search for answers.
Eventually the Phoenix were able to handle the Vikings’ pressure and got back into the game by converting at the free throw line. Green Bay went 11 for 13 from the charity stripe in the first half and led 36-34 at halftime.
“We were looking for energy,” Davis said. “We’ve had some guys that were sick but we don’t make excuses, if you step on the floor you’re playing.”
“They didn’t play well so we subbed [the 5 reserves] in. And even those guys came in and we didn’t have a lot of energy. Somehow we ended that first half with 36 points and the lead and we didn’t play well at all.”
The 2nd half was a different story as Green Bay used an 11-0 run to take control of the game, leading by 15 at one point. The Phoenix shot 59.3% from the floor in the 2nd half while holding Cleveland State to 35.5% in the half and 36.5% overall, the lowest by a Division I opponent this season.
“Any win is a good win but yeah we needed this one,” Davis said. “We lost the last one to Youngstown State where we didn’t have a lot of energy. Tonight we had the same thing starting out but we found a way to overcome and then the second half was a different half for us.”
The win keeps Green Bay (12-8, 6-2 Horizon League) in second place, a game behind first placed Valparaiso (16-4, 6-1) in the standings and a game ahead of 3rd place Oakland (15-6, 5-3), Wright State (14-7, 5-3) and UIC (11-9, 4-3).
It also marks the end to a crucial home stand that saw the Phoenix play 5 of their last 6 games at the Resch Center. Green Bay’s schedule now gets considerably tougher with 6 of the next 8 games coming on the road before finishing the regular season with two home games.
“We know where we are in the standings and we let the last one get away,” said Davis. “Whenever you return home you want to protect home turf, so there was a big emphasis. Friday’s game was a good turn out and we dropped it. So we wanted to come back today and make sure we won the game because we’re going on the road for two tough ones in Oakland and Detroit.”
First up will be a massive test Friday night at Oakland, a team that swept the Phoenix last season and scored 111 points in each of the teams’ two meetings – winning at the Resch Center 111-95 and at the O’rena 111-93. Green Bay is 5-5 all-time against Oakland in the Division I era including 1-4 in games at the O’rena. The Golden Grizzlies have won 3 of the last 4 matchups against the Phoenix.
"Last year against them we scored 111 in both games, I’m not sure we want that this year," Oakland head coach Greg Kampe said Tuesday, "We want a pace that’s best for us and I’m not sure that all-hectic pace is. Sometimes a team presses and gets going with more possessions. But we cant do what we did with Detroit and give up 92 points, though. That’s not what this team is about."
"We want to play exciting basketball though, we want to get up and down, we want to dunk the ball, we want to do all the things fans love. But what they love the most is to win and we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do to win."
Oakland was riding high after an impressive road win at Valparaiso on January 6th but are just 2-3 since then including home losses to Cleveland State and archrival Detroit Mercy. The Grizzlies fell 88-67 again on Sunday losing 88-67 at Wright State.
“They’re big and they have guys that can shoot,” Davis said. “[They’re] athletic and they like to get up and down.”
“They’ve kind of hit a little slide here but the problem is they lost [Sunday] so they’ll be ready for us. We’re in second place. They’re going to be ready.”
The game against Oakland tips off at 8:00 central time on Friday and will be broadcast on national television on ESPNU. It will be Green Bay’s first appearance of the season on ESPNU and 3rd appearance on national TV this season, losing at Pacific on ESPN2 and at Wisconsin on the Big Ten Network.
The rematch with Oakland in Green Bay on February 24th is also slated for an ESPNU broadcast.
Following the Oakland game, Green Bay will face Detroit Mercy before returning home to take on UIC and Valparaiso. The Phoenix will then play four straight road games following the quick two game home stand.
“We’ve got a big stretch coming up here, we’ve got two big ones coming up on the road,” Darner said after Monday’s victory. “That’s why this one was a big one, that’s why Youngstown State was a big one.”
“To try to win the league you probably have to go undefeated or one loss at home.”
Categories: Game Recaps