Green Bay beats Wright State 78-69 in Horizon final
DETROIT (AP) Linc Darner is speeding into the NCAA Tournament in his first season as Green Bay's coach.
Jordan Fouse scored 16 points, and the Phoenix wrapped up a spot in the NCAAs for the first time since 1996 by beating Wright State 78-69 on Tuesday night in the Horizon League title game. Darner took over at Green Bay after leading Florida Southern to the Division II national championship last year, and his up-tempo style worked wonders as his team won four games in four days in the Horizon tournament.
''These guys have believed in our system all year,'' Darner said. ''I think a lot of people probably thought, `Well, you can't win the big ones playing the way you guys play.' I think they proved everybody wrong with that.''
Charles Cooper added 15 points for the Phoenix, who jumped out to a double-digit lead in the first half. Green Bay (23-12) and Wright State (22-13) were in the championship game after beating top-seeded Valparaiso and second-seeded Oakland the previous night.
Michael Karena scored 14 points for Wright State. The Raiders were able to control the tempo against high-scoring Oakland in the semifinals, winning that game 59-55, but they were playing catch-up throughout against Green Bay.
''All year we kept hearing, `They aren't going to be able to win. That style isn't going to be able to win in a tournament setting,''' Fouse said. ''That's just not right. Coach said it from the beginning - nobody wants to see us when we have to play four games in four days - and he was right.''
Jamar Hurdle's basket capped a 13-0 run that gave the Phoenix an early 17-6 lead, and Green Bay led by as many as 15 points in the first half. Wright State missed 14 of 15 shots during one stretch, and although the Raiders recovered a bit from their slow start, they were down 42-30 at halftime.
''We kept thinking, `They're going to fall. There's going to be a time that (the shots are) going to fall,''' Wright State guard Grant Benzinger said. ''I guess right now it starts to set in that, yeah, we didn't shoot the ball like we could.''
Wright State could never cut into its deficit all that much in the second half. Cooper's one-handed dunk on a fast break made it 60-41 with just under 10 minutes remaining.
Wright State was playing in the title game for the third time in four years, but hasn't made it to the NCAA Tournament since 2007.
Green Bay beat Valpo 99-92 in overtime Monday, and the Phoenix came into Tuesday averaging 84 points a game. They were held below that figure, but not by much. According to kenpom.com, Green Bay is the most fast-paced offensive team in the country.
Both teams were playing their fourth game in four days, after Valpo and Oakland were given byes to the semifinals. Wright State shot 37.5 percent from the field Tuesday, a far cry from the patient execution that enabled the Raiders to beat Oakland.
Wright State's JT Yoho, who played a big role in the semis, scored eight points in the final on 2-of-17 shooting.
The Phoenix apparently caught the attention of another Green Bay star. A message on Aaron Rodgers' Twitter account that said ''Let's go UWGB'' showed up Tuesday night.
RUN WITH THEM
Wright State coach Billy Donlon said he felt his team needed to slow the game down against Oakland, but he was comfortable with a more up-tempo approach against Green Bay.
''Green Bay and Oakland are different animals for us,'' Donlon said. ''We don't have a problem trying to score with Green Bay. ... The way I talked about it with our players was, `We have to attack this game.'''
Green Bay: The Phoenix improved to 12-0 when holding opponents under 70 points. ... Green Bay lost to Valpo 54-44 in last year's Horizon final.
Wright State: The Raiders led only once, at 6-4.
Green Bay will hear its name called on Selection Sunday. Donlon said he thinks Wright State is an NIT-caliber team, but he is not really expecting to receive a bid to that tournament.
This version corrects the spelling of Billy Donlon's last name.