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Virginia proves too much for Green Bay

Jonathon Zenk, Sports Writer
December 4, 2012
Filed under Sports

A strong second half turned a close game into a double-digit victory for the Virginia Cavaliers as it knocked off the Phoenix men  67-51 Dec. 1 at the John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Va.

“Obviously, we didn’t put together two halves and Virginia did,” said Brian Wardle, head coach. “In the first half we played pretty smart, and pretty disciplined, and we did some good things.”

Green Bay falls to 3-4 with the loss, while Virginia goes to 6-2.

In the first half, Green Bay played toe-to-toe with Virginia for one half of play, leading 27-26 with two minutes to play in the first half.

Green Bay dug itself a hole early, missing five of its next six shots and the Phoenix trailed 9-5 seven minutes into the game. The Phoenix responded with six consecutive points on back-to-back 3-pointers by junior guard Sultan Muhammad and senior forward Brennan Cougill to give the Phoenix its first lead of the game at 11-9.

The largest lead for either side was five points by Virginia after a free throw by sophomore forward Darion Atkins to make it 24-19. The Phoenix responded with six straight points to recapture the lead.

A 5-0 run by Virginia to end the half put the Cavaliers ahead for good.

Junior center Alec Brown led the Phoenix in scoring in the first half with six points, finishing with 14 points overall. Four other players for the Phoenix had at least four points, including three players with five.

Virginia took control early in the second half. It scored the first six points of the half to take a 36-27 lead, ending on a jumper by junior forward Akil Mitchell, forcing Wardle to take his first timeout of the half.

Mitchell was a force for the Cavaliers, scoring 20 points  tying for a tie on the team lead in points, and shooting 9-12 from the field.

Led by sophomore guard Keifer Sykes and junior guard Kam Cerroni, the Phoenix found its way back into the game. Sykes scored six consecutive points, with four being via the free throw variety, and Cerroni finished off the run with a tough jumper from the baseline and a foul. He converted the free throw to cut the Phoenix deficit to 40-36.

But after that run by Green Bay, it was all Virginia. The Cavaliers scored the next 11 points and 17 of the next 19 points to put the game away, 57-38. The Cavaliers shot 60 percent from the field in the second half, which was too much for the Phoenix to overcome.

“I thought we had some good looks that we could have knocked down that we missed,” Wardle said. “Then in the second half,  they jumped on us and we struggled to score.”

The Phoenix had a chance to win the game late in the half as the Cavaliers were held without a point for the last 5:18 of the game. The Phoenix was unable to take advantage of that though, failing to put any points on the scoreboard for the last 3:25. A Brown free throw was the only point in that 5:18 stretch.

“During the second half, we just didn’t come out with the same energy,” Brown said. “Defensively, we were a lot slower. That’s something we need to work on in the future.”

Along with 14 points by Brown, Sykes was the only other Phoenix player to crack double digits in points, scoring 12 on 4-13 shooting. Cougill and sophomore forward Greg Mays each tallied five  points for the Phoenix.

For the Cavaliers, junior guard Joe Harris scored 20 points to tie Mitchell for the high point scorer of the game. Harris scored his 20 on 8-14 shooting and 4-7 from behind the 3-point line, including making his first three, 3-point attempts.

Virginia shot 50 percent for the game as well as 50 percent from behind the 3-point line and Green Bay shot 34 percent for the game and 29 percent from behind the 3-point line. The Cavaliers also assisted on 20 of its 26 made field goals in the game.

Freshman Jordan Fouse did a little bit of everything for the Phoenix. He scored four points on 2-5 shooting and grabbing five rebounds, which was second on the team. He also added two steals and a block.

The Phoenix next game is Dec. 12 when Green Bay at the Kohl Center in Madison against the Wisconsin Badgers before returning to the Resch Center Dec. 15 to take on the Southern Illinois Salukis.