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Green Bay-Milwaukee War for First

January 19, 2004 Columns No Comments

Wisconsin-Milwaukee at Wisconsin-Green Bay: A First-Place War

by Nick Dettmann

GREEN BAY – It was one of the most anticipated match-ups of the season. Not only was it for in-state bragging rights for the next three weeks, but it was for first place in the competitive and tight Horizon League.

The Panthers of UW-Milwaukee made the 120-mile jaunt north to Green Bay to take on the Phoenix on a cloudy, cold and snowy Saturday afternoon. The battlefield was the Resch Center in front of an announced 7,522 fans, which had the mix of Phoenix and Panthers fans. The attendance figure was the second highest in Phoenix history.

Going into the match-up, which featured both teams 5-0 in the Horizon League, each team was also riding extensive win streaks. The home Phoenix had the nation’s eighth longest streak at nine in a row. The Panthers had a four-game streak. One of these, which are the longest any team has had in the league so far this season, had to give.

Up by one after the first twenty minutes of play, the Panthers turned it up a notch very early in the second half. After a quick two by Green Bay, UWM’s Dylan Page and Ed McCants drilled back-to-back three-pointers to give UWM a 42-37 lead, a lead they would not relinquish.

UWM used a 15-6 run in the first four minutes of the second half to propel themselves to an 82-70 win over the Phoenix. It snapped UW-Green Bay’s nine-game win streak and perfect 8-0 at home and UWM extended their win streak to five.

Early on, the visiting Panthers (11-5 overall, 6-0 Horizon League) had the early edge and momentum. The Panthers jumped out to a 21-10 lead mid-way through the first half. At that point, it looked to be a blow-out. But Green Bay (11-5, 5-1) came back with an 11-4 run to draw within three at 27-24. Green Bay would tie it up at 29 shortly afterwards and teams traded buckets to lead into the one-point halftime lead for UWM.

In the second stanza, it was all UWM. After the back-to-back three’s by Page and McCants, and the 15-6 run, UWM held onto a 51-41 lead. From there, Green Bay would not get closer than eight points the rest of the half.

Senior Mike King had a game and personal season-high 21 points off the bench for the Phoenix. Terry Parker had 13 and the team’s leading scorer Brandon Morris had 10 to round the double-digit scorers for Green Bay.

“I just want to congratulate Green Bay’s basketball program for a magnificent environment and a magnificent facility,” UWM head coach Bruce Pearl said. “I think it is something the league should be very proud of and we were please to play here in front of a big crowd.

“I think the biggest positive for me is that I can look at every single guy that played for us tonight and that they all contributed.”

Joah Tucker, who had been suffering through a scoring slump in the last three games, lit up the Phoenix defense for a team-high 20 points. Tucker’s 20 points was his highest out-put since the first game of the season against Montana where he scored 22.

McCants added 18 points, Page had 15 and Adrian Tigert had his best game of the season with 11 points and 12 rebounds, 10 of which were on the defensive glass, for UWM. That was just half the story for the Panthers and their sparks off the bench.

“I just tried to come out sharp, it was a big game,” Tucker said about his recent scoring slump. “We just needed to come out hard and stay focused. We have so many weapons out there. I think that’s our strength. If we can get so many contributions, I think we are really good.”

“I think both teams came ready to play,” UW-Green Bay head coach Tod Kowalczyk said. “It was a very physical and competitive game. The difference was that we had a couple four minute scoring droughts.”

The Phoenix, who has already eclipsed their win total from all of last season, has seen a turnaround, but Kowalczyk says he is not surprised.

“I think last year’s team set a great foundation, implementing a different style of play. To be quite honest, we weren’t talented enough last year to be successful,” Kowalczyk said. “With the addition of a good recruiting class and returners, we’re a very good basketball team in one year’s time. I’m not surprised.

“Milwaukee had played a lot in these big games over the last couple of years. I think they’re experience and lack of ours showed.”

Morris, who played the entire 40 minutes, was considered to be the biggest difference in Green Bay’s turnaround according to Pearl.

“We kept Chris Hill and Kalombo Kadima on him the entire game and I think that wore him out,” Pearl said on his strategy for slowing Morris down. “He is really the difference maker for them.”

“It means that we’re one game up on them,” Page said with a chuckle about taking the league lead. “We have 10 more games to go and we have a good portion of our season still to go.”

On Thursday night in Milwaukee, the Panthers fought out a grueling win over Youngstown State in a very physical match-up. Fatigue a factor?

“They keep me very in touch with how they feel physically,” Pearl said. “These guys keep me informed with how they feel and how they are conditioned.

“We’re really happy to be apart of 4 really good Division I basketball teams in the state of Wisconsin.”


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