December 9, 2009

Badgers and Phoenix set to match skills

GREEN BAY - Though most of the state of Wisconsin received the day off following a massive snowstorm, the same does not hold true for the Badgers and Green Bay Phoenix as both teams prepare to take the Resch Center court later tonight.

The game marks UW's first true road game and should pose a physical match up against a Green Bay team that is one of only 11 teams in the country to already have eight wins.

"They always play tough," UW junior center Keaton Nankivil said. "It's always a fun game with them because a lot of times their coaches have recruited players that have come here and coach Bo Ryan has recruited players that go there. We've played each other in high school or whatever.

"It's a lot more localized brand of basketball instead of going to play a team in Ohio when they have Ohio kids or Michigan kids or whatever. It's a little more familiar so it's always a little more intense."

Since losing its first game of the season against UAB, Green Bay has won eight of their last nine games. With their hottest start since the 1995-96 season, the Phoenix has done much of its best work in the first half of the game.

On the season, the UW-GB has outscored opponents by nearly 100 points in the first half through 10 games and has been even better in recent tilts. In wins over conference foes Loyola and Illinois-Chicago, as well as a road test at North Dakota, Green Bay has won by an average of 24 points.

They play hard and have decent leadership within the locker room as four seniors flank the Phoenix. This is the first time in their career that the Phoenix has hosted the Badgers.

"Their guards are pretty good at Green Bay," Ryan said. "And their bigs are coming along and adding quite a bit to the team. They're on a roll, I mean, we know what we're going into up there.

"It's going to be a heck of a battle."

Leading the way for the Phoenix is guard Rahmon Fletcher and his 17.2 points per game on nearly 48 percent shooting. He is joined by fellow guard Troy Cotton's 14.9 points per game and Bryquis Perine's 12.8 points per as double-digit scorers on the team.

When you add a trio like that and the fact UW will be in its first true road game of the season, there is no question Green Bay will be ready to give everything they have when trying to bring down the Badgers.

"It's going to be a tough environment," UW senior Jason Bohannon said. "Green Bay is playing very good right now and I think they've got a lot of good road wins. They've been shooting very well as well. We've got to come ready to play because it's going to be a very tough game for us.

The game marks the first of three in-state games the Badgers will take part in over the next week and a half. After the game against Green Bay, UW will host Marquette in the Kohl Center Saturday afternoon. Then, following a game against Cal Poly, UW will host UW-Milwaukee to round out the state rivalry carousel.

"Those guys aren't coming in to say we're trying to tip off Wisconsin," Nankivil said. "They're saying every year we're just going to be another team. That's the good part about the rivalries. Nobody is backing down from each other at all.

Game Info:

Location: Resch Center (10.200) in Green Bay, Wi.

TV: In Madison- None. In Green Bay- MYNEW32 (Ted Stefaniak and Dean Leisgang)

Webstream: GreenBayPhoenix.com ($4.99)

Radio: Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)

All-Time Series: Wisconsin leads 15-0

Last Meeting: UW won, 77-57, on 12/13/08

Game Notes:

-This will be the first game of the season that UW is ranked. The Badgers have been tabbed No. 20 in the AP poll and No. 23 in the Coaches Poll.

-UW has started the season with at least a 6-1 mark for the fifth-consecutive season. Ryan has led three of his teams to 7-1 records, something UW would have again this year with a win tonight.

-With a win, Ryan would also win his 200th career game at Wisconsin.

-Green Bay's all-time record home crowd of 9,705 people was set in the first-ever game in the Resch Center against Wisconsin in 2002. For tonight's game, more than 9,700 tickets have been sold. It will be interesting to see how the blizzard conditions will affect the game turnout.

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