The Wisconsin-Green Bay Phoenix rebounded from a tough loss to instate rival Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers with a 71-40 victory over the Youngstown State Penguins.
Alec Brown led the attack for the Phoenix with 24 points and Keifer Sykes added 14 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
Sandwiched between a game against their rival and a pair of games against the second and third place teams in the Horizon, Youngstown provided an interesting opponent. Green Bay is a much better team than Youngstown, something proven with the Phoenix’s 85-69 victory over the Penguins earlier this year, but the positioning of the game could have caused a problem.
If the Phoenix had dwelled on their loss to Milwaukee or focused on their upcoming matchups with the contenders in the Horizon, Green Bay could have been in serious trouble on the road. Teams struggling with a lesser quality opponent ahead of a big matchup or coming off a big game is common in sports and the Phoenix handled it well. A loss to the Penguins would have eliminated the Phoenix’s lead in the conference title race and put them at a tie atop the standings with the Cleveland State Vikings ahead of their matchup on Saturday.
Wisconsin-Green Bay has built a solid resume this season that looks better and better with every Virginia Cavaliers win, but the Phoenix need to finish strong down the stretch. The Phoenix were 17-3 and undefeated in conference play in late January, but have lost two of their five games since. Green Bay’s lead in the conference has shrunk to just one game with four to play this season. With games against Cleveland State and the Valparaiso Crusaders coming up, the Phoenix face some must win games. Wins over those two opponents would give the Phoenix a two-game lead with two games to play and would basically clinch the conference title.
The Phoenix have proven that they can play with the top teams, with a win over Virginia and a three-point loss to the Wisconsin Badgers this season. Green Bay could be a tough matchup for a lot of teams in March. To get there, Green Bay will most likely have to win their conference tournament. Although an at-large bid is not out of the question, the Phoenix would be much better off getting an automatic bid because the election committee could easily pass over the Phoenix due to the strength of the Horizon and the Phoenix’s non-conference schedule.
Green Bay has proven that it is a talented team this season, but now it is time to see if it can get the job done in crunch time.