Panthers ready for clash with Green Bay

Tom O'Connor, Men's Basketball Reporter

George Dixon has been there.

He was in position in the final game of the Incarnate Word MTE tournament when, on a trip to the foul line with just over three minutes left, he sunk the two free throws to put Eastern up the rest of the way.

The rebound he collected in the final 20 seconds of the Bethune Cookman enabled Daeng Daeng to hit a transition three pointer that limited the Eastern deficit to just one point. While the five rebounds he amassed that game fell far short of his season average, he was tasked with beating out senior Cletrell Pope, a 6-foot-9 senior who stands atop the NCAA rebound leaderboard.

Dixon, whose 9.1 rebounds per game place him ahead of all other Ohio Valley Conference players, could be due for yet another prosperous night in the paint on Saturday against Green Bay.

Although Green Bay employs a more sizeable lineup than many of their competitors, with Cody Schwartz’s 6-foot-9 frame filling out the interior, the nucleus of the Phoenix roster rebounds as if there is not a single player on the roster over six feet.

As a matter of fact, they rebound at the second worst rate in the Horizon League through the first eight games, of which they have won three and lost five to non-conference teams of varying talent.

Billed as the fifth best team in the Horizon League before the season, Green Bay has not necessarily ousted anyone of relevance, but they bear something in common with the Panthers: their losses to the Wisconsin Badgers were fairly respectable. How these two teams might stack up on Saturday could lie in the granular particulars of their respective losses to Wisconsin, about as good a measurement as any when it comes to comparing and differentiating two teams that did not cross paths last year.

The Panthers shot 44 percent from beyond the three-point line in the first half and allowed 11 turnovers, equivalent to the number of Badger mishaps, while reducing the Wisconsin lead to just three with 8:56 left in the second half. Defensively, meanwhile, Eastern trimmed Wisconsin’s three-point percentage from 25 percent in the first half to 10 percent in the second, but the Badgers shaped the course of the game over 15 possessions in the closing minutes.

Comparatively, Green Bay was more passive in its resistance to Wisconsin threes. The Badgers went 48 percent from three and 51 percent overall, yet they were more cautious with the basketball with 9 turnovers compared to the 13 for Wisconsin.

After enduring a first half slog in which the Phoenix were scorched by a Badger team that is treading at the bottom of the Big 10 standings, Green Bay was the victim of an 18-point pounding by Colgate and were respectable against Xavier.

But the Panthers will take the Lantz Arena floor on the heels of a five-point loss to Purdue Fort Wayne and, midway through the Incarnate Word MTE Event, a three-point fall to Bethune Cookman. Regardless, the matchup will showcase three-point defense and turnover management.


Tom O’Connor can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]