It’s been a wild beginning to the conference season for the Green Bay Phoenix mens basketball team.
Despite facing what could be the league’s easiest schedule so far, the Phoenix trailed by double digits in each of their first three Horizon League games yet enter week three of the conference season a perfect 3-0.
The Phoenix trailed by 12 early in their conference opener on the road at Milwaukee back on December 29th before eventually outscoring the Panthers 53-40 in the second half for a convincing 92-82 victory.
Five days later, perennial bottom dweller Youngstown State – who has only won in Green Bay two times in 23 tries – led the Phoenix by 11 in the second half before Green Bay eventually mounted a comeback and won 99-93 in overtime.
“The biggest thing was [we] had to find that fire,” assistant coach Richard Davis told Brian Kuklinski on the WDUZ postgame show after the YSU game. “I don’t know why we do that, but we have to stop those slow starts because it’s going to bite us in the butt.”
Youngstown State shot a blistering 53.6% (15-28) from beyond the arc and 51.6% (32/62) overall from the floor but it was not enough to overcome almost as good shooting from the Phoenix (46.2% 3FG%, 47.4% overall).
Four Green Bay players reached double figures in scoring including 24 points from JayQuan McCloud and 19 from Kameron Hankerson.
It was the fourth straight game in double figures for Hankerson after a slow start to the season.
“I think he’s tired of me getting on his butt all the time,” Davis joked of Hankerson’s improved play. “We just consistently tell him; he knows he’s better. He was making plays at the beginning of the year that he made as a freshman. We talked about that maturation process with Kam and those are things you can’t do. He hasn’t made those plays here lately.”
“In our system if you’re able to shoot the ball, you’ve got the green light to play. That’s what we do, you can’t score if you don’t shoot.”
Things looked even more dire for Green Bay on Saturday afternoon at the Resch Center against last place Cleveland State. The Phoenix opened up a ten point lead right after the halftime break but the Vikings would storm all the way back and eventually led by 16 points with 6:08 remaining.
Three point defense again was an issue for the Phoenix as Cleveland State made 10 of their 13 attempts in the second half (76.9%). But the Phoenix defense eventually forced the young Viking guards into turnovers and Green Bay battled back using a 15-3 run over the final 2:57.
McCloud made a layup for two of his career high 25 points with 1:29 left to tie the game at 86 before Sandy Cohen gave Green Bay the lead 25 seconds later after two missed Cleveland State free throws. But the Vikings gained the lead after a backbreaking corner three by Rashad Williams with just 7.5 seconds left to put his team up 89-88 in what looked like could’ve been the deciding shot.
That set the stage for Cohen to dribble the length of the floor before getting off an off-balanced shot from the right wing that kissed the glass and went in as time expired to ensure Green Bay would head to Detroit in first place in the Horizon League at 3-0.
Cohen finished with a career high 30 points and chipped in 7 rebounds and 6 assists as well as 3 blocks and 2 steals in what was his most complete game in a Phoenix jersey. He also was 4/7 (57.1%) from beyond the arc and a perfect 8/8 from the free throw line.
The weekend sweep for Green Bay sets up two important road games starting Thursday at Detroit Mercy (3-1) and Oakland (3-1) on Saturday.
“When you’re at home you have to protect home court,” Davis said. “When you go on the road you have to kind of steal them when you can.”
“People say you’ve gotta win the games that you’re supposed to but when you’re on the road, what game is that?”
Radio (WDUZ) and TV (ESPN3) calls of Sandy Cohen’s buzzer beater:
Categories: Game Recap