Sykes Too Much for Panthers

Keifer Sykes lived up to his preseason player of the year ranking as he finished Friday night’s game with 34 points leading UW-Green Bay to a 79-63 victory over UW-Milwaukee.

The Panthers returned home playing their first game at Panther Arena since December 10th when they took on their other in-state opponent the Wisconsin Badgers. For Milwaukee, tonight’s game was also their home opener for Horizon League play. Unfortunately, playing at home made little difference as Green Bay held a comfortable lead for the majority of the game, giving Milwaukee their sixth straight loss.

Milwaukee was within striking distance for the first ten minutes of play as they trailed by only four at the 9:19 mark. But over the next seven minutes, the Phoenix went on a 21-2 run pushing their lead to 42-19. That run was sparked by Sykes who tallied ten points over the seven-minute span. Sykes came into the game averaging close to 18 points per contest and did not have any trouble exceeding his points per game average.

“I don’t know who has the right game plan to stop him,” Milwaukee head coach, Rob Jeter, said. “We’ve done it the same way we’ve done it in the past, we just try to send an extra body to him and make him make an extra pass and keep him off balance. Tonight he was a little better than that.”

Green Bay extended their lead to as many as 23 in the second half, but after Milwaukee put together a run of their own the lead was cut to 12 with ten minutes still to play. The Panthers had a chance to cut the lead to single digits, but ended up turning the ball over after an air-balled three-point attempt resulting in a shot-clock violation.

With seven minutes remaining the lead was down to 11 after Tiby split a pair of free throws. The Panthers gained possession of the missed free throw, but turned the ball over once again leaving the score at 67-56. After that, the Phoenix scored eight of the next 10 points putting the game away.

“I’m proud of the way our guys battled in the second half,” Jeter said. “Tonight the moral victory is that our guys didn’t give up and our guys continued to play hard, we just played the best team in the league tonight.”

Senior guard Steve McWhorter led the Panthers in scoring with 21 points along with Akeem Springs who added 18 of his own. Matt Tiby also had a productive night notching another double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

For Green Bay, the Phoenix entered tonight’s contest at 12-3 and 1-0 in conference play. They returned four starters from last year’s team who won the Horizon League regular season championship but eventually fell to Milwaukee in the semi-finals of the Horizon League Tournament. The overtime time loss came as a surprise to most and crushed the Phoenix’s chances of making the NCAA tournament.

“For me it was a big learning lesson and it definitely was a driving force for these guys in the spring and summer and in their off-season,” Green Bay head coach, Brian Wardle, said. “We want to get back there and that’s what we’re working for.”

Milwaukee now sits at 5-12 overall and 0-3 in Horizon League play. Their next game takes place on January 14th at home against Youngstown State.

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