|Posted by Brian Dickmann on February 6, 2017 at 3:55 PM|
Photo via Green Bay Athletics
After Green Bay’s puzzling 93-92 loss at Detroit Mercy last Sunday, It seemed as though the Phoenix were trending the wrong direction. It was their third loss in five games that included a blowout loss at Valparaiso and an embarrassing home loss to Youngstown State, the first since 2003.
What a difference a week makes.
The Phoenix snuck by an improved UIC team, 84-80, Thursday night at the Resch Center and set the stage for a big time showdown with Valparaiso Saturday afternoon.
“This time of year you want to be competing, you want to be right there near the top and we’re in that position,” Green Bay associate head coach Randall Herbst said after Thursday’s victory. “We’ve had a couple of hiccups, and you wish we didn’t have them, but that’s the game of basketball sometimes.
“Can we overcome it? Can Valpo come to town and can we step up and throw the first punch?”
Throw the first punch they did.
Green Bay (15-9, 9-3 Horizon League) took a 6-4 with lead 18:14 left in the first half after a Kerem Kanter 3-pointer and would not trail for the rest of the game en route to a dominate 86-69 victory over league leading Valparaiso.
It was a measure of revenge for the Phoenix after the Crusaders took it to Green Bay last month at the ARC in Valparaiso – winning by 24 back on January 16th.
This time around it was Green Bay winning in blowout fashion, equally the Phoenix largest margin of victory in Horizon League play this season at 17 – tying the margin of their 78-61 victory over Wright State back on January 12th.
It was Valparaiso’s largest loss since a Horizon League Tournament loss to Milwaukee in March 2014.
The victory keeps Green Bay one game behind the first place Crusaders (19-5, 9-2) and a game ahead of third place Oakland (18-7, 8-4)
“We didn’t come out here to make a statement, we came out here to play well and try to stay in the race,” Green Bay head coach Linc Darner said after the game. “I told our guys yesterday when we watched our film on the first game with Valpo, we’re a lot better than what we proved, we’re a lot better than what we played there."
"We had one of those nights. Every team goes through it.”
Green Bay improved on a dreadful shooting performance from the floor in the first meeting, making only 31.0% of their attempts, to a solid 41.2% in Saturday’s victory.
The Phoenix were also badly outrebounded, 51-39, in the first meeting, however it was Green Bay who owned the glass this time around outrebounding the Crusaders 53-32.
“They outrebounded us at their place, but we’re one of the top ten rebounding teams in the country,” assistant coach Richard Davis said after the game Saturday. “It was just a focused effort of crashing, crashing, crashing, do whatever you’ve got to do to help this team win.”
“Rebounding is one of our strong suits and offensive rebounding from our guards is really one of our strong suits. We just stayed after it.”
Green Bay had started slow in several of its last games but that was not the case Saturday afternoon. The Phoenix were ready for the get-go and only trailed for 31 seconds in the entire game.
In a balanced effort, Green Bay had five players score in double figures and seven of the nine players that got minutes scored at least eight points, led by and impressive 17 point, 9 rebound performance from Kerem Kanter. Charles Cooper chipped in 15 points and 5 rebounds of his own while Turner Botz and Warren Jones added 12 points each.
“If you can’t get fired up for this game then why are you playing?” Darner said. “Our guys came out and did everything we asked them to do. We had guys off the bench that played well, guys that started that played well.”
“I don’t think there’s a guy on our roster that played that we can sit there and say he didn’t give us something.”
Valparaiso was led by Alec Peters who scored 20 points on 7 of 12 shooting and grabbed 8 rebounds in 39 minutes of action. Tevonn Walker added 16 points while Shane Hammink added 12.
Green Bay was aggressive defensively with Peters, the nation’s third leading scorer at 26.3 points per game, and forced him into a game high four turnovers. The Phoenix double teamed him every time he touched the ball leaving a teammate somewhere on the court open.
Senior Kenneth Lowe played outstanding defense on the projected NBA Draft pick, finishing with a game high 3 steals to go along with 11 points and 5 rebounds.
“Get the ball out of his hands and make the other guys beat us,” Davis said of Peters. “We made those other guys have to step up and at their place they stepped up. [Micah] Bradford, [Max[ Joseph, and those guys hit shots on us and that’s kind of why we lost. But tonight it was ‘like make them hit shots’ and as you see they weren’t hitting those shots."
"We just wanted to make it tough on Peters, wear him out and you see what the end result was.”
The win evens up the season series with Valparaiso and keeps the Phoenix within striking distance for the regular season championship and the #1 seed at the Horizon League Tournament that comes with it.
It also keeps them a game ahead of third place Oakland for the #2 seed, another critical factor considering the new bracket format the conference will be unveiling next month. The top two seeds no longer have a double bye to the semifinals, rather they will play their second round game on Saturday against the lowest remaining seeds and have a day off before the semifinals on Monday night.
Seeds 7-10 will have to win an opening round game before their second round game against the top two seeds. Seeds 3 through 6 will have to win three games in three days to win the tournament while the top two seeds will get a day of rest.
But before that, Green Bay faces its third 4-game road trip of the season beginning with Northern Kentucky on Thursday night and Wright State on Saturday. Valparaiso hosts bottom-feeders Cleveland State and Wright State at home this week.
“We’ve got to go win the games that we need to win,” Davis said. “On the road, you want to win both but if you can split, we’ll take it. Whenever you’re on the road it’s tough as you saw at Detroit. No game’s a given no matter what the records are."
"Being focused was the key today. We needed to win this game, we wanted to win this game and it showed. We were focused, it’s Valparaiso."
"We have to channel every game as if it’s Valparaiso because every game is equally as important.”
Green Bay (9-3) remaining schedule:
2/9 at Northern Kentucky
2/11 at Wright State
2/18 at Milwaukee
2/21 at UIC
2/24 vs Oakland
2/26 vs Detroit Mercy
Valparaiso (9-2) remaining schedule:
2/9 vs Cleveland State
2/11 vs Youngstown State
2/17 at Oakland
2/19 at Detroit
2/21 vs Milwaukee
2/24 at Wright State
2/26 at Northern Kentucky
Oakland (8-4) remaining schedule:
2/10 at Detroit
2/17 vs Valparaiso
2/19 vs UIC
2/21 vs Youngstown State
2/24 at Green Bay
2/26 at Milwaukee
Categories: Game Recaps