For three straight games the Green Bay Phoenix men’s basketball team was able to play with fire.
Saturday afternoon they finally got burned.
After nearly blowing late leads in each of their last three games – wins against Oakland, Detroit Mercy, and Cleveland State – the Phoenix let a lead slip away again but this time couldn’t hang on falling 98-94 in overtime at Youngstown State on Saturday afternoon.
Green Bay led the game by 11 points with 8:36 left to play but the Penguins went on a 14-5 to get within two before eventually tying the game. The Phoenix had a chance to win the game at the buzzer but JayQuan McCloud’s shot attempt was off the mark and Green Bay would eventually fall, 98-94, in overtime.
It was just the latest case of the Phoenix struggles while playing with a lead late in the game.
Green Bay led by 9 with 4:49 left in the game against Oakland only to see the Grizzlies go on a 7-1 run and have a chance to tie the game with 1:40 left but hung on for a 73-69 victory. A couple of days later, the Phoenix led Detroit Mercy by 8 with 5:01 left before an 8-2 Titans run cut the lead to 2 with 1:46 left. Green Bay survived two decent looks from Antoine Davis and Brad Calipari at game-tying three pointers in the final four seconds to hang on for an 83-80 victory.
Thursday night was another close call, only this time the Phoenix led by 12 with 3:23 left before the Vikings went on an 11-0 run to cut the lead to one with 1:08 left before scraping out a 78-74 victory.
“We’ve been disappointed with the start of some of our games, we’ve been disappointed with the start of the second half or the end of the half even is very important, and then obviously the end of the game,” associate head coach Randall Herbst told Brian Kuklinski on WDUZ on Thursday night after the victory over Cleveland State. “It’s a process. We’ve got older guys, we’ve got to get better at it. We’ll continue to work at it.”
All four games followed a similar script while playing with the lead late: ball movement stalling out, poor shot selection, and turnovers.
After taking an 11 point lead off of a Trevian Bell jumper with 8:36 left on Saturday, the Phoenix would miss six of their next eight field goal attempts until a McCloud jumper broke a 73-73 deadlock with 3:11 left to play. With Green Bay’s lead gone, the teams would trade baskets until the end of the regulation with the Phoenix taking a two point lead on a clutch Cody Schwartz basket with 37 seconds left.
However, Youngstown State star Darius Quisenberry would tie the game on a layup with 19 seconds to go setting up McCloud’s look at the buzzer that was off the mark sending the game to overtime.
“You look at the guys and they’re all kind of standing around and waiting and looking,” Herbst said Thursday of the late game falters. “Nobody wants to be the aggressor. JayQuan does, so they all kind of look at JayQuan to make a play…We’ve just got to get better at it.”
“They’re not shooting, they’re not moving, they’re not screening, they’re all just kind of standing and watching and we have to get better at that.
The loss was a big blow to Green Bay’s top-two seeding chances as the Phoenix could’ve moved into a tie for second place at 6-3 with Northern Kentucky, who comes to Green Bay for a nationally televised game on Friday night. Instead, the Phoenix will enter the second half of the conference slate in a tie for third place with Milwaukee and Youngstown State at 5-4 with work to do. Both teams currently hold the tiebreaker over the Phoenix.
The top two teams receive a bye into the semifinals of the Horizon League Tournament while seeds 3 through 10 will have to win two games just to reach the semifinals at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis.
“We’ve been working on it extensively because we have been disappointed in our end of games with a lead,” Herbst said. “Coach [Darner] will tell them ‘hey guys we’ve still got to score.’
“Take good shots but hey lets get the basketball touched inside, lets get the basketball reversed, lets attack and get it into the paint and then make a good choice.”
Categories: Game Recap