Green Bay Scouting Report: Phoenix go eight-deep, tall in the middle

Marquette’s first road test of the season didn’t go so well, but it will have a chance at redemption tonight when the Golden Eagles square off against Wisconsin-Green Bay at the Resch Center.

The Phoenix (3-7) enter tonight’s matchup having lost four in a row and seven of the last eight, marking the program’s worst start in 10 seasons. They’ll be glad to come home, where they went 12-2 a season ago, including conference wins against Butler, Cleveland State and Valparaiso. They hold a 2-1 record at the Resch Center this year.

Injuries and ineligibility have been the story for the Phoenix, as points out. Forwards Josh Humphrey and Daniel Turner are out with a knee injuries, while transfer Cole Stefan is ineligible per NCAA rules until January. The Phoenix were expected to be shallow on the bench, and that was before these setbacks.

Can Jamil Wilson get things going against a tough Green Bay frontcourt?

Can Jamil Wilson get things going against a tough Green Bay frontcourt?

But the biggest loss tonight will be senior forward Brennan Cougil. The 6-foot-9 Cougil was suspended indefinitely on Saturday for a violation of team rules, and his 12.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per game will be missed, as he is not expected to return after missing Saturday’s loss to Southern Illinois. 6-foot-9 sophomore Greg Mays likely will start in Cougil’s place.

That puts an even larger burden on 7-foot-1 junior Alec Brown, an All-Horizon League first team member a year ago. His numbers are down in 2012, but he went for 22 points and 14 rebounds last year against Marquette, which was without Chris Otule (ACL).

Mid-season transfer Keifer Sykes performed well in conference play for the Phoenix last year, and has been the team’s best player through 10 games in 2012. The 5-foot-11 point guard’s 16.4 points and 3.1 assists lead the team, and he’s a focal point of the offense — behind Brown — on a team lacking scorers.

Freshman forward Jordan Fouse has started all 10 games, and leads the team with 7.1 rebounds in 26 minutes per game. The 6-foot-7 Fouse is not much of an outside threat, but has played well inside and averages 1.1 blocks per game.

Shooting guards Kam Cerroni and Sultan Muhammad have split starts in 10 games and are the Phoenix’s two best 3-point shooters. Muhammad is hitting at an impressive 41 percent clip (16-of-39), and has taken over the starting reins the last five games.

Point guard Carrington Love and forward Nick Arenz round out the Phoenix rotation, which goes just eight players deep.

Where the Phoenix are good

It never hurts to have size against Marquette, and when that size is a 7-foot-1 NBA prospect, it’s even better. Alec Brown scorched Marquette last year and is in desperate need of a breakout game. He has scored 10 or fewer points in five of the last six, but he should fare well against the Golden Eagles. Even as a freshman, he scored three points and grabbed eight rebounds. If Brown is on, Green Bay has a chance. The Phoenix have the 8th tallest team according to KenPom’s effective height ranking (which tracks only rotation players’ heights.)

The Phoenix have a solid combination of getting to the free throw line and making those freebies. Their FTA/FGA stands at 42.7 percent, the 55th highest mark in the country. Furthermore, they are making 76.9 percent of their free throws, the 19th best mark in the land. Marquette has dealt with foul trouble in a handful of games, and against a taller team such as Green Bay this could come into play.

Where the Phoenix can be beat

Brian Wardle’s group only has eight players at his disposal, meaning Marquette’s up-tempo offense could make life difficult. Cougil was a major loss in the frontcourt, and the Phoenix now rely on four freshmen and a sophomore in the rotation. Marquette’s experience should serve them well tonight.

With or without Cougil, the Phoenix are tough inside. But on the other end, teams are making better than 39 percent of its 3-pointers. Those teams have made 67 3’s in eight games, meaning Marquette could find openings on the perimeter. Whether or not they go in — the Golden Eagles made just one 3 against Savannah St. — is another question, but the attempts will be there.

Three keys to the game

1. Attention to Brown

Marquette hasn’t employed a constant double-team to any big this year, but Brown likely will draw such defense. The Phoenix don’t have many outside threats outside of Muhammad and Sykes, which should allow help to Otule or Gardner inside. Without Cougil, the Golden Eagles’ focus inside will be on Brown and no one else.

2. Derrick Wilson’s “winning plays”

Buzz Williams described sophomore Derrick Wilson’s style of play perfect, saying the running back-turned-point guard simply makes “winning plays.” He’ll be asked to do the same tonight against Sykes, who continues to impress in his first full season. Cadougan is no slouch on the defensive end, but Wilson is the one who will be called upon to slow down the Phoenix court general.

3. “Get it going”

Jamil Wilson uttered those words at media availability Tuesday, that the Golden Eagles needed to “get it going” before Big East play begins New Year’s Day. Tonight may be the toughest test before squaring off against Connecticut on Jan. 1, and picking up a road win before conference play would be huge. Look for a solid effort defensively to make Wilson’s words come to life.

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