There’s no question that Green Bay is one of the hardest places to win a game in the Horizon League.
Unless you’re the Oakland Golden Grizzlies the past two seasons, apparently.
After Thursday night’s 95-83 victory over Detroit Mercy the Phoenix improved to 15-4 in conference play at the Resch Center in the Linc Darner era, tied with Wright State for the best home record in the league over that span.
One of the losses was an inexplicable 92-89 loss to Youngstown State last season, only the Penguins second win ever in Green Bay and the first since March 4th, 2003. Another loss came a year earlier when the Phoenix dropped a 70-68 decision to regular season champion Valparaiso, though Green Bay would get its revenge a few weeks later in the conference tournament semifinals.
But the other two have been humiliating home defeats to the Golden Grizzlies, including a 111-95 track meet in 2016 and an 85-72 defeat last year.
“We’ve played well here,” Darner said of his program’s home building. “The only team we haven’t beaten here is Oakland right now, they seem to have our number.”
The Phoenix did knock off the Golden Grizzlies at the O’rena last year – an 80-72 victory on the home floor of the regular season co-champions. Oakland is 11-7 over the past two years against conference foes at home.
The first matchup of the Darner era in Green Bay saw Oakland drain 13 threes en route to scoring the most points ever by an opponent at the Resch Center. The Phoenix led 50-49 at halftime but were outscored 62-45 in the second half led by 29 points from current NBA point guard Kay Felder, 27 points from Max Hooper, and 24 points from then-sophomore Jaylen Hayes.
The Grizzlies scored at will shooting 50.7% from the floor and 40.0% from beyond the arc.
“They are a hard matchup for us,” Darner told the Green Bay Press Gazette after that game. “They just are.”
The Phoenix lost the rematch a month later in a game with almost the exact same score line: 111-93.
Last year, after Green Bay won the first meeting in January, the #2 seed was on the line at the Resch Center. The Phoenix entered the game 11-5 to Oakland’s 12-4 and would’ve owned the tiebreaker over the Grizzlies with a head-to-head sweep. The game was tight most of the way through with the Phoenix holding the lead for 28 of the game’s 40 minutes.
The game was tied at 67 with 5 minutes left to play before Oakland dominated the last portion of the contest, ending the game on an 18-5 run to clinch the #2 seed and, as it turned out, their first ever Horizon League regular season championship which they shared with Valparaiso.
So how will things shake out this time?
Green Bay comes into the game with some momentum after beating UDM but had a historically bad non-conference portion of their schedule in which they went just 2-8 against Division I opponents – including a shocking 83-71 loss to lowly Stetson at the Resch Center last month.
Oakland was the overwhelming preseason Horizon League favorite and took care of business in Milwaukee on Thursday night in their conference opener.
Either way, expect another up and down game similar to what Phoenix fans saw Thursday night. Oakland plays at the 10th fastest tempo in the country according to KenPom. While Green Bay still wants to get up and down the floor with as many possesions as possible, they are playing slower this season and currently rank 38th in adjusted tempo according to KenPom. Detroit Mercy ranks 8th.
Horizon League home court records since 2015/2016 (through 12/29/17):
|Team||Home Record vs D1||Home Record vs Horizon|
|Wright State||26-7 (.788)||15-4 (.789)|
|Green Bay||21-8 (.724)||15-4 (.789)|
|Northern Kentucky||19-9 (.679)||12-7 (.632)|
|Oakland||26-8 (.765)||11-7 (.611)|
|Milwaukee||14-15 (.483)||9-10 (.474)|
|Detroit Mercy||13-18 (.419)||8-10 (.444)|
|UIC||14-21 (.400)||6-12 (.333)|
|Youngstown State||9-16 (.360)||6-12 (.333)|
|Cleveland State||9-18 (.333)||5-13 (.278)|
|IUPUI||15-7 (.681)||10-6 (.625)*|
* vs Summit League
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