By Murray Gleffe
GREEN BAY – The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay men’s basketball team put up a valiant second-half effort but came up short in a 71-62 Horizon League loss to Northern Kentucky University Feb. 11 at the Kress Events Center.
“I keep telling our guys I sound like a broken record after each game,” Green Bay Head Coach Will Ryan said. “I didn’t realize we went through a six-minute scoring drought. The guys take their minds off things and do things uncharacteristically. One day, it’s going to click. Hopefully, that’s Sunday (against UW-Milwaukee).”
The Norse shot a blistering 53.3% from the floor and connected on 16-of-19 free throws.
Green Bay (4-20 overall, 3-12 Horizon) put three into double figures, with Cade Meyer leading the way with 14 points.
Manny Ansong and Nate Jenkins scored 12 and 11 points, respectively.
The Phoenix pulled down 13 offensive rebounds but gave up 16 fast-break points to Northern Kentucky.
Green Bay took a 10-9 lead, but the Norse asserted themselves with their length in their zone and collapsing double teams in the post.
Northern Kentucky (14-10, 10-5) went on a 15-5 burst to go up 24-15 with about six minutes left before halftime.
“We did a fairly good job of breaking the zone at their place,” Ryan said. “It’s hard on a one-day prep to change gears. We don’t have the length and quickness at some of those guard spots to take away those gaps. Chris Brandon and Adrian Nelson are tough, strong and athletic.”
Cem Kirciman and Jenkins scored 10 points in succession, as Green Bay went to halftime trailing 30-25.
“(Kirciman) is good against the zone,” Ryan said. “I probably should have left him in there, but he motioned for a break. We’re trying to balance his minutes with (Meyer) in the post.”
Meyer opened the second half scoring a basket to bring the Phoenix within one possession, but Northern Kentucky’s Bryson Langdon and Sam Vinson got into their offensive flow to put the Norse back up 48-34 with 11 minutes left.
A bit later, Green Bay trailed by its biggest margin of 18 points, but the Phoenix made a vaunted comeback down the stretch.
Ryan Claflin and Randy Tucker built their confidence with a couple of made field goals to cut the lead to 59-49.
“I’ve said this before, but it’s always nice to see his eyes light up when he makes shots,” Ryan said about Tucker. “The weight of the world falls off his shoulders. He hits shots in practice. Hopefully, he can build on this game.”
After a few missed shots and turnovers by the Norse, Meyer put on a clinic down low, scoring nine straight for Green Bay to cut the margin to 63-56.
Jenkins added a free throw for Green Bay to pull within six points, but Warrick popped in an 18-footer seconds later.
The Norse converted their free throws in the final minute to pick up the road victory.
“The bright spots were, we had 15 assists and 9 3-pointers,” Ryan said. “The guys have to continue to believe in the process and not get discouraged. You have to take some positives out of the result.”
Green Bay travels to Milwaukee Feb. 13 before returning home Feb. 18 and 20 when they entertain Purdue Fort Wayne and Cleveland State, respectively.