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Green Bay men start season on road

Clint Berge, Assistant Sports Editor
November 14, 2012
Filed under Sports

The Green Bay Phoenix began the 2012-13 season with a 72-67 win against Chicago State Nov. 10 at the Resch Center. Green Bay now prepares for a  three game tournament in Reno, Nev. before heading to Moscow, Idaho to take on the Idaho Vandals and back home to play host to North Dakota State.

The World Vision Classic in Reno from Nov. 16 to 18 will give the Phoenix a chance to play against some strong talent.

The Phoenix begins the tournament facing the Southern Utah Thunderbirds who returns two starters and five seniors this season. The Thunderbirds struggled last season with a record of 14-17, but an experienced squad could provide the Phoenix a tough matchup to begin the tournament.

The Phoenix will try to defeat the Nevada Wolf Pack, who nearly qualified for the 2012 NCAA tournament with a 28-7 record overall and 16-2 on the home court Nov. 17.

Nevada Junior guard Deonte Burton, who was the 2012 Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year, was also named an AP honorable mention all-American selection to begin 2012 and will help make the team a contender again this year. This matchup will be a good one for the Phoenix, according to sophomore guard Keifer Sykes.

“Nevada was one game away from the NCAA tournament last year,” Sykes said. “They have a good point guard and won 28 games last season, so that should be a good test.”

The Phoenix wraps up the tournament with a contest against Cal State Fullerton, a team that had a successful 21-10 season a year ago. The Titans are returning two starters this season and will be led by interim head coach Andy Newman this season.

“We will be playing in one of the better cities and in the tournament,” Sykes said. “Playing three games back-to-back will be fun to see how the team responds.”

Brennan Cougill, who averaged 9.2 points per game and 7 rebounds per game, is the lone senior on the team and is eager for the tournament.

“I am definitely excited to get a road trip out of the Midwest,” Cougill said. “All three quality teams will test us on the road where we didn’t play very well last season.”

The Phoenix went 3-13 away from the Resch Center last season. With a tough slate of road games this year, the team will need to improve upon that.

Sykes said in order to improve upon the road record and continue the strong play at home from last season, the team needs to focus on the details.

“We are able to work on the little things more this year because we have the blueprints for the years to come in head coach Brian Wardle’s system and style of play,” Sykes said. “We are getting better at the little things.”

Cougill echoed Sykes, saying the minor details could make the difference this season.

“We need to keep improving on daily things,” Cougill said. “We know what our style of play is. We just need to be more consistent.”

Following the tournament in Nevada, the Phoenix will travel to take on the Idaho Vandals Nov. 20.

The Phoenix and the Vandals squared off last season where Cougill scored a career high 19 points and brought down 19 rebounds. The Phoenix squeaked by with a narrow margin, winning 63-61 on the home court.

After the long road trip, Green Bay will return home Nov. 24 to host the North Dakota State Bison for the second home game of the 2012 campaign. The Bison defeated Green Bay last season in one of the team’s 13 road losses. It was the third game of the season a season where the Phoenix began 2-4 and won four of the first ten.

Cougill and Sykes both agree that the Phoenix has to start out the 2012 season much different than 2011.

“Coach has been preaching to start fast because we can’t afford to come out slow,” Cougill said. “If we show improvement each game, we should be all right.”

Sykes agreed and added that a disastrous road record last season cannot repeat itself.

“That’s what our coach is looking for at this point of the season,” Sykes said. “ Last year we started out with 11 straight road losses.”

The North Dakota state game in Green Bay is an opportunity for fans to support their team and help make a difference with the play on the court, according to Cougill and Sykes.

“The bigger the crowds, the better we play,” Cougill said. “We definitely feed off the crowd, their intensity and spirit.”

Sykes said playing at home could boost them in the standings.

“Playing in front of a good fanbase means a lot because the energy of the crowd gives us energy,” Sykes said. “Playing on the road is tough, but playing at home gives you the extra push to put four or five more wins on your record.”

Sykes said it’s important for the team to play consistent all season long and aims to be 6-0 for the first six games of the season.

“We have good moments, and we have down moments,” Sykes said. “We have to minimize the time of the down moments and be tougher.”