Five takeaways from Green Bay’s 50-45 victory over St. Norbert at the Resch Center Tuesday night:
1. Don’t read too much into exhibitions
To be sure, it was a little too close for comfort that Northeast Wisconsin’s Division I Team was only able to knock off Brown County’s Division III Team by five points. It wasn’t pretty, there’s no sugar coating that.
But at the risk of sounding like Kevin Bacon in Animal House, a disappointing performance in the exhibition opener is not a reason to hit the panic button. Exhibitions are what they are – a chance for teams to knock off some rust, a chance for coaches to get players game action and evaluation, and a chance for teams to continue tinkering with lineups and rotations against players wearing a different jersey. These games don’t count for a reason.
And let’s remember that exhibition games are not exactly a barometer for how a season is going to play out. Green Bay beat St. Norbert by 35 in their exhibition game last season and it wasn’t exactly a sign of positive things to come. On the flip side, it’s worth mentioning that Valparaiso lost twice to non-Division I teams in their exhibitions last season and still went on to finish towards the middle of the Missouri Valley Conference. I will never pass up an opportunity to get in a Valpo dig.
Now with that being said, there are definitely some causes for concern that can hopefully be worked out in the next week and a half before the season tips off for real on November 7th at Indiana State.
2. Shooting woes continue
One of those concerns has to be the team’s continued struggles shooting the basketball. The Phoenix shot 41.9% from the floor last season – 281st in the NCAA out of 358 teams – and despite the roster almost completely turning over those woes appear to have at least carried over into the exhibition opener.
Both St. Norbert and Green Bay decided “by mutual agreement, game statistics will not be made available” for the game so we don’t have official stats but according to Rich Palzewic of the Press Times, the Phoenix shot just 35.7% (15/42) from the floor during Tuesday night’s game. They were apparently even worse from beyond the arc making just 6 of their 27 attempts (22.2%).
To make things worse, Green Bay also struggled from the charity stripe reportedly missing 12 free throws and knocking down just 53.8% of their free throw attempts.
“You don’t want to make excuses, obviously you need to step up to the line and make it,” assistant coach Brandon Pritzl told Brian Kuklinski after the game on WDUZ radio. “But when you look back at it, there’s a lot of guys who touched the floor today and this was their first Division I game.”
“You combine that with, it’s a lot of guys first time – we only had 3 guys who played in here [the Resch Center] last year – this is the first time they were in the gym was today. We weren’t able to get in for practice yesterday or any time prior. Was that the only reason? No. But does it affect you? Maybe.”
“But it’s not like we didn’t have open looks. At the end of the day it comes down to putting the ball in the hole.”
3. Lack of paint touches a concern
Part of the reason Green Bay shot so poorly was that they had to settle for a lot of outside shots due to the St. Norbert defense packing the lane. Almost 60% of the Phoenix shots in the first half were from behind the arc, going 3 of 13 (23.1%) from downtown and 8 of 22 (36.4%) overall.
Green Bay struggled to get the ball inside – Cade Meyer for example had just two field goal attempts in 26 minutes – and didn’t really give the Green Knights much of a reason to go over screens or extend the defense to close out shooters with the shots not falling.
“We talked that they were going to go under a lot of stuff based on our past shooting the ball,” Pritzl said. “You make one or two of those threes early, it opens up a whole different ballgame. Credit to them, they stuck with their gameplan and contested things.”
“The way that they packed it in, they did a tremendous job of preventing post touches but also just making us take some early threes that I think we’ll make as the year goes along. But if you make a couple, I think the game shifts early.”
Green Bay’s bigs reportedly finished with a combined 6 points – two from Meyer and four from Brock Heffner.
4. Clarence Cummings leads the way
On a positive note, it was a solid debut for JUCO transfer Clarence Cummings. The 6’5” redshirt sophomore from Orlando does a little bit of everything on both sides of the floor.
After scoring just 3 points in the first half, he tacked on 11 more in the second half to lead all scorers with 14 points and scored in a variety of ways, including knocking down a few three pointers.
Lightly recruited out of the State College of Florida, Cummings is a potential diamond in the rough that you can probably pencil in as a starter when the season tips off in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Garren Davis, another newcomer from the JUCO ranks, also had a hot start scoring 9 points in the first half on 4/5 shooting but disappeared a bit in the second half finishing with 11 points.
5. Defense makes adjustments
For its part, Green Bay’s much maligned defense from a season ago was good enough to win the game. That obviously comes with the caveat that the opponent was a Division III team that has only had about a week of practice under its belt, but a win is a win.
The Phoenix held St. Norbert to 28.6% shooting for the game and got the crucial stops it needed at the end of the game.
“I think we did a really good job adjusting to what they do, so I’m proud of our guys for that,” Pritzl said. “It kind of struck us a little bit early how good and crisp they would be at running those actions.”
“Defense wins you games and a day like this, if you don’t shoot it well you better bring the D. And we did that.”
Categories: Game Recap, Top Story
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