Green Bay’s much maligned defense showed up in a big way Thursday night at the Resch Center.
The Phoenix – who came into the game ranking towards the bottom in nearly every defensive statistical category – held Oakland to a season-low 54 points en route to a 66-54 victory over the Golden Grizzlies. Oakland committed a season-high 27 turnovers and shot a season-low 34.5% from the floor, including just 18.5% (5-27) from beyond the arc.
The Grizzlies (7-7) entered Thursday’s game shooting 47.0% from the floor during their previous 13 Horizon League games, good for second in the league trailing only league-leading Northern Kentucky (49.9%) in that category.
“Our defense showed up today,” Green Bay assistant coach Richard Davis said on WDUZ radio after the game. “As we tell our guys, when you play hard those are things that happen.”
It was a good bounce back victory for the Phoenix after a dismal showing at Youngstown State last Saturday evening in which the Penguins went off for 51 points in the first half alone en route to a 96-77 victory.
Oakland’s 54 points was the lowest output for a Green Bay Division I opponent this season. The Phoenix forced the Grizzlies into 27 turnovers, a season high for Green Bay, including forcing 12 steals.
“After that embarrassing loss on Saturday it was a point of emphasis of sitting down, being tough, and guarding,” Davis said. “We had a game plan today defensively and we executed it well. The 12 steals will attest to that.”
“I keep a deflections stat and we had twenty something deflections, so it lets us know that we were active and ready to go.”
For its part, Green Bay’s offense didn’t set the world on fire either. It was the Phoenix second-lowest scoring output so far this season and marked the first time that Green Bay (13-13) won a game while scoring less than 82 points. The Phoenix entered the contest 0-10 in games in which it scored less than 82 points and is 12-3 in games in which it scores 82 or more.
The Phoenix had it’s worst shooting performance of the season shooting just 34.4% from the floor including 22.7% (5-22) from behind the three point line.
“I think starting out a couple guys took some tough shots,” Davis said. “They had open shots and they wouldn’t shoot the open shot, they’d take the tougher shot which kind of sets your tone. When the ball doesn’t go in early for some of these guys it’s going to be a long night for them. So then when that doesn’t happen you’ve got to sit down, you’ve got to grind it out defensively.”
“In some games in the past that hasn’t been what we’ve done but tonight we did that.”
Remarkably, this was the fourth time this season that the Phoenix have forced a Division I opponent into 17 or more turnovers but only the first time Green Bay has won one of those games. Previously the Phoenix forced IUPUI into 24 turnovers, Bowling Green into 18, and Iowa in 17 and yet lost all three of those games.
Green Bay was led by ShanQuan Hemphill, who recorded his second double-double of the season scoring 13 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in 28 minutes of action. Kameron Hankerson made his first start since November 11 and also chipped in 13 points and 6 rebounds while senior Sandy Cohen, who battled foul trouble early in the game, added 10 points, 5 steals, and 2 assists in 25 minutes.
Green Bay earned a season split with Oakland avenging an earlier 90-78 loss at the O’rena last month meaning the Phoenix are now 7-6 in Horizon League play and move into the all important fourth place in the conference standings. The top four teams host quarterfinal games in the conference tournament next month with the winners advancing to the semifinals at Little Ceasers Arena in Detroit.
Green Bay will look for some more payback when they take on Detroit Mercy on Saturday at noon at the Resch Center. The Titans (7-7) demolished the Phoenix, 101-83, earlier this season at Calihan Hall in a game that saw both freshman phenom Antoine Davis and senior stalwart Josh McFolley go off for 29 points each. The Titans shot 53.4% from the floor that day including 45.2% (14/31) from behind the arc.
“We have to make them take a lot of tough shots,” Davis said of the Titans. “It’s just the defensive intensity. In Detroit the intensity wasn’t there. They hit tough shots to start and when that happens somedays it’s going to be a long day.”
Green Bay will play three of its final five regular season games at home, which is important since right behind the Phoenix (7-6) are three teams tied at 7-7: Oakland, Youngstown State, and Saturday’s opponent Detroit Mercy. The Phoenix are 9-2 in Green Bay so far this season.
Only the top eight teams make the conference tournament this year and with Cleveland State (2-12) officially eliminated from conference tournament contention and Milwaukee (4-9) seemingly not too far behind, there will be intense jockeying for tournament seeding – including a potential home game – over the next few weeks.
“If you lose one game you can be in 8th place,” Davis said. “Home court is crucial, you have to take care of home court.”
“You have to take care of it at home and on the road you have to find a way to get a split.”
Categories: Game Recap