UWGB basketball roundup: Men start well, finish poorly in opening week; women rebound with big home win
GREEN BAY – There has been good news and some bad for the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay men’s basketball team in its first two games this season.
The Phoenix was a heavy underdog on the road last week against both Indiana State and Georgetown, yet it trailed the Sycamores by just three points at halftime and the Hoyas by two.
“Well, if the game of basketball is only 20 minutes long, we would be OK,” UWGB coach Will Ryan said, laughing.
Indeed, it’s been second halves that have been ugly in the Phoenix’s 0-2 start.
Indiana State outscored UWGB 46-22 the final 20 minutes to win 80-53 last Monday. Georgetown outscored UWGB by 32 to hand it a 92-58 loss Saturday.
“The first two games against some really quality opponents, they have battled, they are locked in,” Ryan said about his players. “Just like most younger inexperienced teams, once they face a little adversity, we hit that in the second half of these two games. Turnovers. Careless ones. The other team starts hitting shots, hitting tough shots. It snowballs.
“The teams that can figure that out, how to weather the storm and play through those mistakes and through those lulls, those are the teams that build the confidence through accomplishing something. For us to win these type games, we don’t have to play an A-plus game, but we probably have to play a B, A-minus, to overcome a lot of things in terms of height, size, athleticism.”
It might be nice for a team with only four returning players to face a mid-major squad comparable in talent and size, but that won’t happen when UWGB plays the University of Wisconsin (2-0) at 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Kohl Center in Madison.
The Badgers are 26-1 all-time against the Phoenix, 21-0 at home and have won the last 11 games in the series.
They have won both contests in the Will Ryan era, beating UWGB 82-42 in his first season in 2020-21 and 72-34 last season.
While Georgetown guard Primo Spears hit several difficult jump shots in finishing with a game-high 21 points against UWGB, it was 6-foot-11, 245-pound center Qudus Wahab who used his size to get positioning on UWGB 6-8 sophomore forward Cade Meyer to the tune of 18 points in just 22 minutes.
It’s not going to be any easier for the Phoenix against Wisconsin junior Steven Crowl, the 7-foot, 245-pound forward who had 12 points against South Dakota and 9 points and 11 rebounds against Stanford.
It must limit him while also attempting to contain its top two scorers in 6-9 forward Tyler Wahl and 6-2 guard Chucky Hepburn.
“We have to not turn the ball over. Our turnover numbers came down a little bit (against Georgetown), which was a positive,” Ryan said. “If we can clean that up and get it to nine or 10 turnovers, that would be a huge bonus because it would be that many more shots.
“But when you are scouting a team like Wisconsin, you know they are not going to get sped up. They are going to be crisp. They are going to be concise and do what they do. Take care of the ball, take good shots. If we can get them to maybe take a few questionable ones or do things out of character, that would be huge for us.”
For as many times as UWGB and Wisconsin play, it will be a highlight game for Ryan as he returns to the place he worked under his father, Hall of Fame coach Bo Ryan, as director of basketball operations and video coordinator from 2002 to 2007.
Both his parents will be in attendance, as will other family and friends.
“There is no question that there are always going to be special memories walking into the Kohl Center and seeing familiar faces,” said Ryan, whose team will prepare after the game to play in the Jersey Mike’s Jamaica Classic on Friday and Sunday in Montego Bay, Jamaica. “Their coaching staff and the other people who still work in the building, there are a lot of great memories in there and a lot of friendly faces.
“It’s always going to have a special place in my heart.”
UWGB women earn first win
The Phoenix women lost at Drake 80-67 in a season opener last Monday, but it was a much different story Saturday.
UWGB never trailed in its commanding 74-45 win over Marist at the Kress Center, breaking a 10-all tie with a 9-2 run to end the first quarter and take control.
Senior guard Hailey Oskey was one of three Phoenix in double figures, finishing with a game-high 19 points in just 25 minutes.
Sophomore guard Cassie Schiltz added 11 points and graduate transfer Tatum Koenig had 10 for a UWGB team that shot 45.8% overall (27-for-59) and 41.2% from 3-point range (7-for-17).
Koenig has provided some nice scoring punch off the bench for the Phoenix in her first two games after a standout career at Bradley.
The 5-8 guard scored 13 points against Drake in 20 minutes and is shooting 50% overall (6-for-12) while going 3-for-5 from beyond the arc.
UWGB will play at St. Louis on Friday, which will be a homecoming for another Phoenix transfer.
Junior guard Natalie McNeal started 24 games for the Billikens last season while averaging 9.4 points.
It's the first of five games away from the Kress for the Phoenix, which will play two games at the St. Pete’s Showcase during the Thanksgiving holiday before opening Horizon League play at UW-Milwaukee on Dec. 1 and at IUPUI on Dec. 3.
The Phoenix doesn’t play at home again until hosting North Dakota State on Dec. 10.
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: UWGB men's basketball goes 0-2 in opening week; women get first win