Four Green Bay players scored in double figures Tuesday to lead their team to a 78-69 win against Wright State in the Horizon League championship game. The Phoenix will advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 20 years.
Fourth-seeded Green Bay opened up a 15-point lead in the first half and combated a 12-2 run by Wright State to lead 42-30 at halftime. The Phoenix maintained a comfortable lead throughout the second half and led by as many as 19 points, completing a slight upset of the third-seeded Raiders.
Senior guard Jordan Fouse led Green Bay with 16 points while junior guard Charles Cooper had 15 points. Fouse cleaned up the glass with seven rebounds, and Cooper was the team’s driving force in the second half with 10 points.
Senior guard Carrington Love and junior forward Kenneth Lowe each recorded 12 points. Love added four assists.
Green Bay is known for its fast-paced offense and turnover-inducing defense but showed it can win in other ways. The game lasted 74 possessions even with the final two minutes extended by fouls, and Wright State committed only eight turnovers for a 10.8 turnover rate, or about half of what the Phoenix usually force.
The Phoenix held the Raiders to to 37.5 percent field-goal shooting. Their length bothered Wright State star JT Yoho and forced him to shoot 2-of-17 from the field. Although Yoho had five assists, he also had five turnovers.
Yoho finished with eight points while senior center Michael Karena had a team-high 14 points. Senior guard Joe Thomasson recorded a double-double with 11 points, 13 rebounds and four assists.
Another storyline emerging in this game is that Green Bay coach Linc Darner is simply a winner. Darner, in his first year as a Division I head coach, exceeded expectations and brought the program to heights it has not seen since 1996.
Those championship hugs. #RP40 #MotorCityMadness pic.twitter.com/4TPkqlipzq
— HorizonLeague (@HorizonLeague) March 9, 2016
Darner inherited a roster that finished second in the Horizon League last season but lost conference player of the year Keifer Sykes and two additional starters.
This success is nothing new for Darner, although it’s his first time doing it at such a high level. He took Florida Southern to eight straight Division II NCAA Tournaments and won a national championship last season.
In terms of NCAA Tournament seeding, Green Bay has two quality wins against Akron and Valparaiso that will keep the Phoenix off the No. 16 seed line for sure.
The Catch and Shoot currently has Green Bay as a No. 15 seed, although some more upsets in mid-major conference tournaments could certainly allow the Phoenix to climb up to a No. 14.
Phoenix didn’t even need a Hail Mary to win #MotorCityMadness #HLMBB pic.twitter.com/LvZLiGArXo
— Paul Oren (@NWIOren) March 9, 2016