The Milwaukee men’s basketball team achieved an impressive 18-point win at 76-58 against in-state rival Green Bay Phoenix on Friday night at the UWM Panther Arena.
“Great overall game by our guys,” head coach Pat Baldwin said. “We got off to a great start initially. Throughout the entire game, I thought we had good control of it. The game management by our guards was really good.
“Very encouraged by our guys and their performance and how hard they worked. We got back to how we wanted to defend, holding a very potent offensive team to 58 points.”
Bryce Nze had a career night and collected his third straight double-double with 25 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Panthers.
The sophomore forward has been working on his all-around game, according to coaches and Nze himself.
“I try every night and every game to come out strong and be the best player I can be and get them involved and give them confidence. And it’s vice versa with that,” said Nze.
Baldwin added to Nze’s game on the night.
“Nze was a great force for us on the inside and on both ends of the floor with taking care of things on the offensive end and then, being asked to defend the perimeter when Green Bay went small,” Baldwin said.
“Thanks to him, we’re able to sit here and be happy on a Friday night. We talked about some things he needed to do before Christmas, and he took ownership and accountability for where he wanted to go and where this team wanted to go.
“All I attribute that to is just the work he’s putting in. You see he’s stepping out shooting three’s and comfortably shooting them. We’re going to him a little bit more and our guys are believing even more in him.”
The rival showdown on Friday was much different than the matchup on Jan. 15, in which Green Bay took home the win, 99-92. Milwaukee not only took home the win, but maintained a double-digit lead for the majority of the game, never letting the Phoenix get close to a comeback.
UWM shot only slightly better than Green Bay at 47 percent to their 41 percent, but gained huge advantages in points in the paint (42-14), points off turnovers (18-6), and second chance points (17-3). Milwaukee’s defense also forced a season-best 20 turnovers on Green Bay.
The domination started in the first half with Nze scoring six straight points. Several players got involved in the scoring game to edge Green Bay. With the score still tight, a jumper by Jeremiah Bell, followed by a steal and dunk by Vance Johnson put the lead up nine and more momentum on the Panthers side.
Carson Warren-Newsome scored 12 points, which included a pair of big shots from deep. Jeremiah Bell finished with 11 points, five rebounds, and five assists in the most minutes played at 37 minutes of action.
Manny Patterson scored 13 points and Khalil Small added 10 points for Green Bay. One of Green Bay’s leading scorers, Sandy Cohen III – who put up 29 points in the Jan. 15 matchup – was held at just eight points Friday night.
“I think what we were tonight is really efficient, especially on the offensive end,” Baldwin said. “We made the plays we had to on the offensive end. We also kept them out of transition. When you get a chance to setup your half court defense, that gives you opportunities to get stops and that certainly helps out.”
Milwaukee opened the second half on a 12-2 run, in which they went up 19 points. Nze came out with a dunk and a long three. Brock Stull then took one from deep.
The run damaged Green Bay. After being down the largest lead at 22 points, Green Bay trimmed the lead down to 16, but there was no hope for Green Bay’s offense against UWM’s effort down the stretch.
A couple of dagger triples from Warren-Newsome and Bell closed the game.
Up next for UWM is a road trip, starting Feb. 8 against Northern Kentucky and concluding Feb. 10 against Wright State. The Panthers will return to the Panther Arena on Feb. 16 against IUPUI for their final home game.