|Posted by Brian Dickmann on January 30, 2017 at 4:45 PM|
Prior to Friday night’s nationally televised showdown at Oakland, many Green Bay Phoenix fans would have likely predicted a 1-1 split of the two game Michigan road trip.
But after the Phoenix were impressive in their 80-72 victory against the Golden Grizzlies on Friday, many fans thought the game against lowly Detroit Mercy on Sunday would be an easy victory and allow Green Bay to stay in the regular season title hunt and hold onto their two game cushion for the coveted number 2 seed for the conference tournament in March.
It appears the players thought the same as Green Bay suffered a disappointing letdown, 93-92, on Sunday afternoon in front of 1,505 at Calihan Hall in Detroit.
“[Detroit Mercy] had beaten some really good teams,” assistant coach Ben Swank said after the game Sunday on WNFL. “They’re capable of beating anybody in this league.”
“We tried to stress that to our guys but coming off the Oakland win, obviously our guys were looking at records a little bit. I think we came in a little lackluster and it definitely cost us.”
The Phoenix committed a season-high 30 fouls and turned the ball over 21 times during the game Sunday, also a season high. Still, the Phoenix looked in control for much of the game and held a 10-point lead with 8 minutes remaining. Green Bay trailed for just 2-minutes during the entire game.
UDM’s 93 points was the second most allowed by Green Bay this season and the most since Central Michigan scored 103 back on December 6th.
The 21 turnovers was the most since Linc Darner took over as head coach and the most the Phoenix have committed since an 80-65 loss to Belmont in the NIT back on March 18th, 2014.
“I think that was a huge part of it, not taking care of the ball in the second half there and it got them going,” Swank said. “But also three or four times in the first half we got up 7, 8, 9 points and a couple times in the second half, same situation. We just couldn’t put the gas pedal down and extend that lead and we let them kind of hang around.”
“When you do that in this league on the road any team’s got a chance.”
The game was a massive missed opportunity in a game that was filled with them.
Green Bay (13-9, 7-3) led by eight, 50-42, with under a minute left in the first half when the two teams traded turnovers. With 17 seconds left in the first, Phoenix senior Tevin Findlay turned the ball over which led to UDM’s Josh McFolley making a driving lay-up while being fouled with 4 seconds left in the half.
Instead of an eight (or more) point halftime lead it was just five going into the break and the Titans had momentum.
Still, Green Bay held a 10-point lead, its largest of the game, with 8:10 minutes remaining.
But that is when the turnovers started to mount. The Titans scored 48 points in the second half, 24 of which came off of Green Bay turnovers. UDM shot 60.7% from the floor in the half and outscored the Phoenix 24-15 in points off turnovers.
“We just didn’t do a good job of taking care of the ball and making the easy pass and then attacking after we beat the press,” Swank said. “Just way too many turnovers and it ended up costing us today.”
Green Bay had a good day shooting the ball from the floor, shooting a season-best 60.8% from the floor and 66.7% (6-9) from beyond the arc. The Phoenix got a season high 21 points from senior Khalil Small as well as 15 each from Warren Jones and Charles Cooper and 12 from Turner Botz.
While the turnovers were bad, the Phoenix really shot themselves in the foot at the free throw line. Green Bay missed 15 free throws in the game, including 9 alone in the second half, going 24-39 (61.5%) overall.
The Phoenix were playing their second straight game without their leading free throw shooter and starting point guard Trevor Anderson who is out with back spasms.
“Especially in the second half there when they’re getting up and pressuring and fouling, that’s got to be an advantage for us because we’ve got to go to the free throw line and knock down our free throws,” said Swank. “There were a couple times there late in the game where we went to the free throw line and we didn’t convert and that hurt us.”
Detroit Mercy (5-17, 3-8) also had four players reach double figures in scoring led by 6’6” forward Jaleel Hogan who scored a game high 28 points. Freshman sensation Corey Allen scored 20 while McFolley added 17 and DeShawndre Black scored 15.
The Titans, who were tied with Cleveland State for last place in the Horizon League coming into the game, were playing without star big man Chris Jenkins and relied on Hogan to make plays in the paint.
“He’s a big body,” Swank said of Hogan. “We went down and dug on him and doubled him a couple times but we were way too soft on him. We let him just split us countless times and made it way too easy for him.”
“We didn’t make him catch it out on the floor too many times. He got deep post touches and when he gets it in there he’s really good and he’s going to score and he did that tonight.“
Green Bay led by five, 92-87, with 1:46 left after Khalil Small’s layup but would not score again. Detroit would get two free throws from McFolley and another from Corey Allen to cut the Phoenix lead to two with 36 seconds remaining.
On the ensuing possession, Tevin Findlay missed a pair of free throws before fouling Black on the other end while he made the game tying layup with 12 seconds left. He would convert his free throw attempt to provide the winning margin.
Charles Cooper missed on the other end as time expired and the game was over, with the loss giving Valparaiso a critical two game lead in the Horizon League standings. The Phoenix lead over third place Oakland and Wright State also shrunk to just one game as the teams surpassed the halfway point of the conference season.
Green Bay returns home for a crucial two game home stand this week before embarking on a tough four game road trip. The Phoenix will welcome an improved UIC team on Thursday night before hosting league-leading Valparaiso on Saturday afternoon at the Resch Center.
“Hopefully we learned a little bit about this game where you have to bring it every game,” Swank said. “You can’t look at the other team’s record.”
“In this league every game’s a battle. “
Categories: Game Recaps