Phoenix crashing down to earth

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After showing some signs of life and playing two close games on the road last week, the Phoenix have finally returned to Green Bay. Coming off a winless seven-game road trip, Green Bay hoped to build off their progress from last week and start their four-game homestand against Wright State with a win.

The Phoenix weren’t the only team with players making their return to Green Bay. Wright State guard Amari Davis is playing his first game in the Resch Center since transferring out following his sophomore year. The former Horizon League Freshman of the Year spent two years in Green Bay, putting up big scoring numbers and twice earning all-conference team honors. After playing last year at Missouri, Davis returned to the Horizon League, this time transferring to Wright State.

The Raiders are led by senior guard Trey Calvin, whose 18.4 points per game lead his team, and are good for third in the conference. He’s stepping up this year, filling the role played by Tanner Holden last year, who transferred to Ohio State in the offseason.

Despite their great guards, it was the Wright State’s bigs who led the way right from the start. Freshman forward Brandon Noel had his way with Cade Meyer, making each of his first six shots, each from deep within the paint. He finished the half with a team high 14 points on just nine shots. He also grabbed five boards and two blocks.

After falling behind by 16 points with about six minutes left in the half, Green Bay turned on their perimeter shooting. The Phoenix missed their first five shots from distance, but made four of their next six. Randy Tucker made back-to-back threes off the catch, and Clarence Cummings III made some tough shots in the midrange to cut the Raiders’ lead to nine heading into the break at 42-33. CC3 and Garren Davis each led Green Bay with eight points.

Seeing their lead nearly cut in half heading into the break, Wright State coach Scott Nagy got his team back to what worked at the start of the game: getting the ball inside. 

The Phoenix made it easy for them. Nine turnovers after the break led to several easy fast-break opportunities for the Raiders, which they were more than happy to capitalize on. Off a series of post ups and well-time cuts, quickly pushed their lead back up to double digits, and never looked back.

Noel led the way once more, scoring 18 more points in the second half. His 32 points is a career high, and he did it all on just 17 shots. He wasn’t the only Raider to score with efficiency. The team as a whole shot 41 of 57 from the floor, nearly 72%, and grabbed nine of their 16 misses. Calvin didn’t need to do much, and added in 16 points. Davis scored 15 in his return to Green Bay

Meyer turned things on in the second half, scoring ten of his team-high 13 points after the break. Unfortunately, it was too little too late. The Wright State offense dissected the Phoenix, outscoring them in the second half 57-34, all while taking just three shots from beyond the arc. Green Bay lost the first game of their homestand 99-67.

The Phoenix looked to bounce back against Northern Kentucky a couple days later. Unfortunately, it was more of the same.

The Norse are led by guard Marques Warrick, whose 19 points per contest are second in the Horizon. They entered the game in second place in the conference.

Perimeter shooting kept Green Bay in the game early, as Meyer and Tucker each made a pair of threes, including one to tie the game at 20 apiece with 8:37 left in the half. 

After that, it was NKU the rest of the way. The Norse, led by Warrick’s 14 points in the first, went on a 19-5 run to finish the half, and headed into the break ahead 39-25. CC3 scored the Phoenix’s only points in the last eight minutes on a made three and a pair of free throws. 

The teams traded buckets for the first few minutes of the second half. The Norse couldn’t put Green Bay away, but the Phoenix struggled to cut into their deficit.

After a three-pointer from forward Sam Vinson pushed the score to 51-33 with 14:30 left to play, NKU threatened to run away with this one. However, Tucker once again came up big with his shooting, making back-to-back shots from distance to cut the lead back down to 12. 

That was as close as Green Bay would get for the rest of the game. Free throws sandwiched by more threes from Vinson pushed the lead back to 19, and NKU didn’t look back from there. The Norse went up by 20 with just over three minutes to play, and the game was out of reach. Final score, 74-53.

Warrick led all scorers with 21 points, including five threes. Vinson made four of his six shots from distance, three of them in the second half to put the game away. 

Tucker had his best shooting performance since coming to Green Bay. His four made threes are the most in his career, and his 57% shooting from beyond the arc is his most in a game with multiple attempted threes. After shooting 3/6 against Wright State, Tucker’s shot coming back would be crucial for a Phoenix team that’s struggled to shoot all season.

As they have all year, turnovers killed Green Bay. 26 in their two games last week led to easy fast break buckets for their opponents. It doesn’t matter how good your defense is; if you’re giving teams several easy buckets every game, you’re going to lose games.

Green Bay has two more home games before they take their show out on the road again. They play host to Youngstown State on Thursday, and then Robert Morris on Saturday. Both games will be played in the Resch Center. Hopefully the Phoenix can end their losing streak in front of their fans.

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