It has been a tough start to the 2021/2022 season so far for the Green Bay Phoenix men’s basketball team.
The Phoenix are 0-5 for the second straight season after losing three in row this past weekend at the Jersey Mike’s Classic on the campus of Eckard College in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Green Bay opened the tournament with a heartbreaking two-point loss against UNC-Greensboro, 60-58, despite holding a 16-point lead in the first half. They led most of the way before ultimately losing a lead that they would never regain with 3:48 left. A clutch three pointer by Lucas Stieber tied the game at 58 with 28 seconds left but the Spartans converted the decisive layup with just 3 seconds left and a Stieber half-court heave at the buzzer was off the mark.
It was a similar script a day later against Florida International. The Phoenix led much of the game, including by as many as 8 points in the first half, before squandering it during the second half and ultimately losing a back-and-forth battle, 63-60, after another late game three point buzzer beater attempt to tie was no-good.
Those two losses, combined with blowing a 12-point second half lead in an 81-77 loss against Indiana State in the season opener, mean three of Green Bay’s losses have come by a combined 9 points – 2, 3, and 4 points respectively.
“We always preach next pass, next shot, next possession, and now in this case next game,” Phoenix head coach Will Ryan told Brian Kuklinski on the pregame radio show on WDUZ prior to Sunday’s 68-58 loss to Weber State, dropping the team to 0-5.
“So far schedule-wise we’ve played against some more experienced, senior-laden teams, upperclassmen. These are just learning opportunities for our guys. I think they’re going to help us down the road, especially when we get into conference and when we get into tight games, we can figure out a way to get over that hump. These are great tests for us.”
Despite a winless start to the season, the coaching staff knows that they’re close and is trying to make sure the team isn’t getting too down on itself. There is a lot of season left, after all.
“We just stay positive with the guys,” Ryan said. “We show them teaching clips after every game – good and bad – and we show them how close we are. You clean up a couple areas and kick in a few more shots and our record is significantly different right now.”
“Just staying positive, making sure they keep their heads up knowing that there is a next game.”
Green Bay also played a number of tight games last season but was just 2-6 in games decided by 5 points or less. There were obviously growing pains with a new coaching staff, new style of play, and a few newcomers. This season, with more than half the roster different than last season and many newcomers playing significant minutes, those growing pains remain.
Still, the team has been in almost every game it’s played so far this season, the lone exception being a 72-34 dismantling against Wisconsin in Madison back on November 12. Now the challenge becomes turning these tough losses into victories.
“Once they learn to win together – most of these guys, they’ve come from a winning program whether it be high school, junior college, or transfers from a 4-year, so they’ve won before, now they’ve got to win in the green and white,” Ryan said. “Cleaning up a couple things, defensive rotations, a couple careless turnovers here and there. You’re not expecting them to pitch a perfect game, we expect them to pitch a complete game if you want to go baseball terms.”
“Last year, we played really well for 20, 25 minutes, maybe 30 minutes. At this point in time this year, I think we’re a little bit ahead of that in terms of playing up into the 30 minutes.”
The Phoenix will look to get right this weekend when Division III opponent UW-Superior comes to the Kress Center on Saturday night before a quick two-game start to the conference slate with Robert Morris and Youngstown State coming to Green Bay next week.
GB will then head out on the road for five straight away from home including the final three games of the non-conference portion of the schedule at UMKC, at Kansas State, and at Minnesota before returning to conference play at Northern Kentucky and at Wright State.
“Trying to hold that lead against some quality opponents with a young team, we have to learn and figure out a way to close those out.”
Categories: Game Recap