It was appropriate that the Green Bay Phoenix and Oakland Golden Grizzlies got to play a rubber match on Thursday night.
The two teams split their regular season series with each team winning on their home floor by four points resulting in an aggregate 161-161 tie heading into their do-or-die meeting in the Horizon League Tournament quarterfinals at the Resch Center.
And the first half of Thursday night’s game seemed to be a continuation of the previous two games as the teams went into the halftime locker room tied at 30. But after Rashad Williams hit a 3 to give Oakland a 33-30 lead things changed dramatically.
Green Bay went on a 16-5 run to take control of the game and would outscore Oakland 48-33 in the half thanks to 58.6% shooting while holding Oakland to 33.3% in the period.
A big part of that was thanks to the Phoenix holding the Grizzlies to just 6 points in the paint in the second half and 22 for the game to win that battle for the first time this season in dominating fashion, 46-22. They had been outscored 72-56 in the paint in the previous two meetings combined.
First team All-Horizon League big man Xavier Hill-Mais was held to 13 points after going off for 31 in the last meeting at the O’rena while Oakland’s other big man, Brad Brechting, was limited to just 2 points in 13 minutes due to being hobbled by a back injury sustained during practice on Monday. He scored 26 in the teams first meeting in January at the Resch Center.
“That was one of our big concerns coming into tonight was the points in the paint because they do a great job of throwing it into their big fellas, that’s their game plan,” Green Bay associate head coach Randall Herbst told Brian Kuklinski after the game on WDUZ radio. “When you show me that number, (46-22 in the paint) we did, we got a lot of buckets around the rim and finished.”
“That was great, especially against a team like that that plays two big boys. We were able to get some things done at the rim.”
The defense against Hill-Mais was especially noteworthy since the 6’7”, 261 pound redshirt senior had come into Thursday night’s game red hot averaging 21.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per game over his last eight games including six games of scoring at least 20 points.
“We got it out of his hands a few times,” Herbst said. “A couple of times the guys went right away on the pass, they would go double. A couple of times we waited until he put it on the floor before we would go double…but our guys battled and fought down there and I’m really proud of them because we threw different guys in there.”
“Manny did a good job. We had Cody in there, Cody had a great game tonight. Tre did a good job. Our perimeter players were doing it helping out on the double teams and pressuring the passer and causing them to rush and miss opportunities.”
Offensively Green Bay was led by Horizon League Freshman of the Year Amari Davis who scored a game-high 19 points and by senior Cody Schwartz – possibly playing his final home game – who scored 16, a season high against a Division I opponent. The Phoenix also got contributions from JayQuan McCloud (11 points, 6 rebounds), Kam Hankerson (10 points, 5 assists), and Manny Patterson (8 points, 10 rebounds).
Oakland, who was playing without starting guard Tray Maddox Jr, was led by 15 points from Rashad Williams, 13 from Hill-Mais, 11 from Kevin Kangu, and 10 from Daniel Oladapo. Freshman guard Blake Lampman also added 10 points off the bench for the Grizzlies.
Green Bay has won 7 of its last 9 games and heads to Indianapolis for the Horizon League Tournament semifinals where they will face Northern Kentucky on Monday night at 8:30. The game will be broadcast on national TV on ESPN2.
Categories: Game Recap