Ansong leads Phoenix to back-to-back victories
By Murray Gleffe
GREEN BAY – UW-Green Bay Phoenix men’s basketball player Manny Ansong did a little bit of everything last night.
He scored 23 points, grabbed three rebounds and dished out an assist in Green Bay’s 70-58 Horizon League victory over Robert Morris University Dec. 2 at the Resch Center.
“Our guys did a good job of swarming the paint,” Green Bay Head Coach Will Ryan said. “They missed some bunnies in there. I thought the guys we had in there gelled well.”
Donovan Ivory added 11 points, and Japannah Kellogg III rounded out the double-digit scorers for Green Bay with 10.
The Colonials were led by Rasheem Dunn’s 17 points.
The Phoenix (2-5 overall, 1-0 Horizon) shot 50% overall from the floor and had 20 assists in front of 1,989 Phoenix faithful.
Hot shooting prevailed from the opening tip.
Ansong drove hard to the rack to give Green Bay an early 9-8 lead, but the Colonials (0-6, 0-1) went on a torrid three-point shooting spree in the next few minutes to go on top 20-15 midway through the first half.
“Coming into the game, (Robert Morris) hadn’t shot it well from behind the arc,” Ryan said. “I don’t think it was in our guy’s minds to dare them to shoot (from distance). (Justin) Winston has a funky release, and it caught our bigs off guard. He got comfortable after making a few. Dunn is quick.”
With Kellogg on the bench with a pair of fouls, Cem Kirciman came in and provided a spark with five quick points against Robert Morris’ stifling 2-3 zone.
“It’s funny because Robert Morris had played only four possessions of zone before this game all season,” Ryan said. “You prepare 90% of your practices for their man-to-man defense. Usually, it takes a while to see the reads. We did a good job of hitting the high post with Cem (Kirciman). He’s crafty with his ball fakes and shot.”
Neither team pulled away from the other, as one possession is all that separated both teams the rest of the half.
Before the break, Green Bay Southwest graduate Lucas Stieber sent a perfect alley-oop pass to Ansong who put the basket home to give Green Bay a 31-30 lead at intermission.
“Lucas (Stieber) plays with such poise and sees the floor well,” Ryan said. “Manny (Ansong) is so athletic. He can find the creases and flashes in there. (Ansong) was living at the rim. He has some tricks up his sleeve you can’t teach.”
The Phoenix started the second half with a hook in the lane by Kellogg and a triple by Stieber to build their lead to 42-36.
However, it was short-lived as Robert Morris reeled off 11 of the next 13 points to take a 47-44 lead with 12 minutes remaining.
A few minutes later, Ivory sent a no-look pass to Ansong, who slammed the ball home as Green Bay regained the lead for good at 49-48.
With about six minutes remaining and the Colonials within three points at 55-52, Robert Morris’ Kahliel Spear picked up a technical foul.
Ivory hit both free throws, and Kirciman hit a short jumper on the subsequent possession to push the Phoenix lead to 59-52.
It was the difference the home team needed to extend their cushion.
Down the stretch, Robert Morris couldn’t connect on a jumper, as Green Bay pulled away for the double-digit victory.
The Phoenix are back in action Saturday, Dec. 4, when they host Youngstown State at 6 p.m. at the Kress Center.
“Every day I want to see progress,” Ryan said. “We need to give our guys some rest with a quick turnaround. It’s about growth and maturity with this group. It’s nice to have our first one (Division I win) out of the way.”