Valparaiso (16-11) at Green Bay (21-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, February 20, 8 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Resch Center (9,729) -- Green Bay, Wisconsin. Television: None. Home Record: Valparaiso 10-4, Green Bay 12-2. Away Record: Valparaiso 5-7, Green Bay 7-2. Neutral Record: Valparaiso 1-0, Green Bay 2-1. Conference Record: Valparaiso 8-4, Green Bay 11-2. Series Record: Green Bay leads, 26-20.
GAME NOTES: The Green Bay Phoenix shoot for at least a share of the regular- season title in the Horizon League tonight, as they tangle with the Crusaders of Valparaiso at the Resch Center.
Ahead of the nearest competition in the Horizon, Cleveland State, by two games, the Phoenix defeated the Vikings last Saturday on the road, 68-54, to move to 11-2 in the standings. Green Bay has won two straight and four of the last five.
The Crusaders are not that far behind with an 8-4 league mark, also having won four of the last five decisions. Valparaiso took down Milwaukee over the weekend in convincing fashion, 77-62.
Green Bay is ahead in the all-time series by a count of 26-20, but with both teams being members of the Horizon, the edge goes to the Crusaders at a slim 8-7. Valparaiso has won four straight and five of the last six encounters with the Phoenix, and that includes a 75-60 decision at home late last month.
The defense for Valpo held the Panthers to a mere seven field goals in the first half last Saturday and 31.7 percent accuracy from the floor overall, including a dismal 3-of-29 behind the 3-point line. On offense, the top performer for the Crusaders was LaVonte Dority with 19 points, while Jordan Coleman registered a double-double consisting of 14 points and a game-high 11 rebounds, as the team posted a 40-33 rebounded edge in order to overcome 15 turnovers on the evening.
In conference games, Dority is the lone double-digit scorer for the Crusaders with his 18.8 ppg, shooting not only 48.9 percent from the field but also 48.1 percent beyond the arc as well. Unfortunately, there is a huge drop-off offensively from there for the Crusaders, as there isn't another player even coming up with nine points per game as they generate 68.4 ppg as a group.
Alec Brown tallied 18 points and nine rebounds, playing tough on the inside yet again with a pair of blocked shots, but at the same time converting 3-of-4 behind the 3-point line in the win over Cleveland State. Keifer Sykes tacked on 18 points and Greg Mays 15, the latter hitting all but one of his eight field goals, while Jordan Fouse cleared 11 boards and logged three blocks as the team limited the Vikings to a mere 30.9 percent shooting from the field.
Over the course of 26 games, all of which he has started, Sykes is generating a hefty 20.3 ppg as he shoots 47.6 percent from the field. Having already made twice as many shots at the free-throw line (161-of-201) than all but one of his teammates has yet to attempt, Sykes is a player who can do it all from scoring, to passing (130 assists) and rebounding (4.4 rpg). Brown (16.0 ppg) has registered a massive 78 blocked shots in order for the Phoenix to average more than seven per game in that category.
Combining a streamlined offense with an aggressive defense, the Phoenix have put all the pieces together to dominate the Horizon this year and taking one step closer to locking up the conference title only makes sense for as well as they are playing.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Green Bay 73, Valparaiso 64
02/20 10:20:15 ET