Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Green Bay 87, UIC 79: Jones' hot second half carries the Phoenix

                                                        Photo Credit: Geno Green

CHICAGO— In the final week of Horizon League play, the Green Bay Phoenix (17-11, 11-5 Horizon) remained a game back of the Oakland Golden Grizzlies for second place in the conference with an 87-79 win over the UIC Flames (14-15, 7-9 Horizon).

15 of Warren Jones’ season-high 22 points came in the first 3:07 of the second half, going 4-of-4 from three-point range and 3-of-3 from the free-throw line.

"(Warren) got us going and we were struggling and had two field goals in the last eight minutes of the first half," Green Bay coach Linc Darner said. "He normally comes off the bench for us, but with Khalil at three fouls, we threw him in and got hot and springboarded from there."

Despite being a non-factor in the first half by going 0-for-6 from the field, GB’s leading scorer Charles Cooper finished with 18 points, on 5-of-9 in the second half, to go along with 13 rebounds.

Kerem Kanter chipped in with 11 points and 13 rebounds— good enough for his sixth double-double of the season. 

The party continued for the Horizon League’s leading blocker Tai Odiase with three blocks and led five UIC players in double figures with 16 points and a team-high 12 rebounds.

Kanter made an immediate impact on offense with five of the Phoenix’s first seven points.

The Phoenix remained in control for the first 10 minutes behind Kanter’s rebounding and timely layups as they led 20-14.

14 seconds later, Kanter picked up his second foul of the game and was benched, but the Phoenix maintained their lead. Things went from bad to worse as Khalil Small joined Kanter with three fouls. The Flames were not immune to foul trouble either as key reserve Marcus Ottey picked up his third at the 4:24 mark.

UIC took advantage of two of the top three GB scorers on the bench and Cooper went 0-for-6 from the field and closed the half on a 16-3 run, highlighted by a thunderous dunk by K.J. Santos, as it led 38-31.

"We had foul trouble with Khalil and Kerim picking up their third and second fouls and Coop struggling in the first half, but in the second half, Warren (Jones) got us going hitting those three's," Darner said.

Jones' four triples and three free throws provided an offensive boost at the start of the second half with Green Bay’s first 15 points as it took a 46-45 lead on UIC.

With Cooper, Kanter and Small on the floor, the Phoenix looked like the NCAA Tournament team from last season as they went on a 15-0 run, which gave them their biggest lead of the game at 65-53 at the halfway point of the second half.

Ottey’s timely dunk and three-pointer on the next possession kept UIC around at 68-64 with 6:42 left, but would get no closer as Green Bay extended its winning streak in the series to 10 games.

Both teams return to action on Feb. 24 as the Phoenix host the Oakland Golden Grizzlies and with a win, will pull into a tie for second in the Horizon League, while the Flames travel to take on the Northern Kentucky Norse.

"We are playing for second placed if were take care of Oakland and Detroit (on Sunday), we will likely finish in second, which is big," Darner said. "Both teams are playing a lot of games and it is about keeping everyone fresh at this time of the season, so the next two days are critical in terms of rest."

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