By Murray Gleffe
GREEN BAY – It’s good to have depth and be healthy as a team again.
The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay men’s basketball team welcomed back three players Jan. 20 in a 70-63 Horizon League victory over Detroit Mercy at the Resch Center.
The Phoenix played 10 players, with returnees Manny Ansong, Nate Jenkins and Ryan Claflin logging a combined 45 minutes.
Green Bay played with seven healthy bodies the past couple of games.
“It’s a huge win for us,” Cade Meyer, who led the Phoenix with 16 points, said. “We’ve had several guys out. Getting them back in the loop made the difference. I’ve been using my strength more and attacking the glass. Our guards have been doing a great job of feeding me the ball.”
Donovan Ivory and Japannah Kellogg had 13 and 12 points, respectively, for Green Bay.
The Phoenix (4-13 overall, 3-5 Horizon) had 19 assists on 26 made field goals and enjoyed a 31-23 advantage on the boards.
Do-it-all guard Antonie Davis led the Titans (5-10, 3-3) with 25 points but needed 26 shots to accomplish the feat.
Green Bay torched the nets from the get-go.
Ansong connected on an elbow jumper and Kellogg a baseline jumper for a 19-11 lead.
It was part of an 8-for-10 start from the floor.
“I had a strong feeling (Detroit) would zone us,” Green Bay Head Coach Will Ryan said. “Let’s face it, our shooting numbers aren’t where they need to be at this point of the season. We did a great job of passing the ball inside and out. We made (Detroit) move a bunch on defense. We got numerous looks where our feet were set, and the guys knocked down shots with confidence.”
Davis had to earn every point, as the Phoenix had a hand in his face on every attempt.
Davis, averaging 24 points per game, jacked up 12 first-half field goals, making five.
Green Bay built its biggest lead of the first half, 31-21, after Jenkins buried a triple from the top of the key.
The Titans clawed back with the help of Noah Waterman and Willy Isiani, who combined to score 13 points in the first stanza.
The Phoenix led 38-32 at the break.
After a fastbreak basket by Meyer to open the second half, Detroit scored 18 of the next 25 points to grab a 50-47 lead with 11 minutes remaining.
In the past, Green Bay might have folded.
This time, the Phoenix rose up and went toe-to-toe with the Titans for the remainder of the game.
After regaining the lead at 62-60, Ivory drove into the paint and was awarded two free throws after a blocking call on the Titans.
It was a big momentum play, as Ivory’s two makes from the charity stripe gave Green Bay a four-point lead.
“I’m pretty sure (the defender) was inside the restricted arc,” Ryan said. “It was a good call.”
Down the stretch, Waterman buried a deep 3-pointer pointer to cut the lead to three, 66-63.
On Green Bay’s next possession, however, Ivory sealed the deal with a nifty left-handed layup off the glass to seal the victory.
“Hat’s off to our guys for persevering when (Detroit) took the lead in the second half,” Ryan said. “You knew they would make a run with Davis and how talented a kid he is. He can score in bunches. We held our ground, and we didn’t waver. I’m proud of our guys for finding a way to get it done.”