Last Tuesday, Green Bay Phoenix head coach Linc Darner said his team could easily be 0-3 after the first three games of the Horizon League season.
Using that logic, Green Bay could easily be 0-5 after a miserable two game trip to Michigan.
Instead, the Phoenix fell to 3-2 in conference play after an embarrassing 101-83 loss at league-leading Detroit Mercy on Thursday followed by a 90-78 setback at Oakland on Saturday afternoon.
Green Bay never led in Thursday’s game and trailed by as much as 28 points in the loss to the Titans (5-1). Detroit Mercy scored the game’s first 10 points and opened up a 17-point first half lead before the Phoenix trimmed it down to five at 41-36 with 4:33 left in the half after a Kam Hankerson three pointer.
The Titans would go on a 26-4 run after that, however, including scoring the first 14 points of the second half to put the game away.
Green Bay shot 25.9% (7/27) from beyond the arc compared to 45.2% (14/31) for Detroit Mercy. The Titans shot 53.4% overall from the field and were led by freshman phenom Antoine Davis and senior Josh McFolley, who each scored 29 points. Green Bay got 17 points from Michigan-native Kam Hankerson along with 13 points each from JayQuan McCloud and Tank Hemphill.
Saturday’s clash with Oakland didn’t go much better despite the Phoenix holding a 41-39 halftime lead at the O’rena. The Grizzlies outside Green Bay 51-37 in the second half, eventually building a 19 point lead with 4:08 left to play thanks again in large part due to poor Green Bay three point shooting and hot shooting from their opponents.
The Phoenix made just 8 of their 25 attempts (32.0%) compared to 10 for 22 (45.5%) from Oakland.
“I think we competed pretty hard in the first half, the second half we just missed some shots and settled for outside jumpers and they weren’t falling for us,” assistant coach Ben Swank told Brian Kuklinski after the Oakland game on the WDUZ postgame show. “Instead of toughing it out there and trying to get to the basket we settled for those jumpers and we weren’t hitting. We’ve got to find a way to get easier baskets.”
Green Bay came into the Oakland game averaging nearly 25 free throw attempts per game but attempted a season-low 12 free throws in Saturday’s loss. On the other hand, the Grizzlies shot 25 free throws, making 20 of them.
“I think we could’ve been in the bonus pretty early but we kind of stopped attacking,” Swank said. “That’s kind of how you can cure not making jumpers is by getting to the free throw line but we didn’t do that enough. We just settled for jumpers too much.”
The Phoenix were led again by Hankerson who scored 19 points including going 3 for 6 from beyond the arc. Sandy Cohen was the only other Green Bay player in double figures and scored 18 points and grabbed 9 rebounds.
Oakland was led by sophomore Kamari Newman who scored a career high 33 points on 10/13 shooting, including 6/8 from beyond the arc. His previous career high was 19 points. Big man Xavier Hill-Mais (18 points, 9 rebounds) and guard Jaevin Cumberland (20 points, 6 assists) also chipped in to victory.
“He’s a good shooter,” Swank said of Newman. “He hit a couple early and got it going.”
“You have to pay so much attention to [freshman guard] Braden Norris because he’s 58% from the three point line and Jaevin Cumberland who’s averaging 20 a game in conference. Credit to Kamari Newman, he got some open looks and knocked them down.”
Green Bay returns home to the Resch Center for two critical home games starting Thursday night against IUPUI and Saturday afternoon against UIC.
The two losses mean the Phoenix fell to fourth place behind Detroit Mercy (5-1), Northern Kentucky (4-1), and Oakland (4-2). The top four finishers in the regular season get to host a first round Horizon League Tournament game this season while spots 5-8 have to go on the road. The bottom two finishers will not make the tournament.
Road struggles are not a new phenomenon for Green Bay unfortunately. The Phoenix lost their first 7 conference road games last season before finally sweeping the Michigan road trip at the end of February. Green Bay is 7-4 in home conference games over that same time span and has won 8 straight games at the Resch Center. They’re 8-2 overall in that span with the 2 losses coming at the Kress Center.
“We’ve got to sustain effort for the full 40 minutes,” Swank said. “That’s one thing coach [Darner] mentioned during one of the timeouts is, we just haven’t been able to sustain it. I don’t know if it’s an on the road thing where we just can’t toughen up and get it done for 40 minutes.”
“We’ve played pretty well at home so we’ll see what happens next week, glad were coming back home. We’ll have a good week of practice and ready to go on Thursday.”
Categories: Game Recap