In a battle of two of the best rebounding teams in the country, Green Bay (11th at 40.7 rpg) dominated the glass, as well of the turnover battle, en route to an emphatic 86-69 win over league-leading Valparaiso (21st at 39.9 rpg). Despite having two seven footers, and one of the nation’s best rebounders in Alec Peters, Valpo got pushed around on the boards all day, as Green Bay outrebounded them 53-32. The Phoenix also had 20 offensive rebounds, which led to a lot of second-chance scoring opportunities and a major reason the free throw disparity was so huge. Equally impressive was that Green Bay only had 4 turnovers in the first 30 minutes, and finished with just 8 total. The Phoenix had a balanced scoring attack, with five players in double-figures, led by Kerem Kanter with 17 points and Charles Cooper with 15, while Turner Botz and Warren Jones each added 12. The Phoenix never relinquished their lead after going up 6-4 in the early minutes. Green Bay was up by nine points at halftime, and that lead swelled up to as much as 23 points in the second half. Valparaiso did not give up though, as they cut the deficit to 10 points with just about two and a half minutes left. But Green Bay settled down and worked the clock down to get good shots. This can be difficult for them to do because it is in contrast to their high-tempo style of play. Both teams shot an unimpressive 41 percent from the field. But the big difference offensively was that Green Bay attempted 35 free throws (making 24), while Valpo attempted only 18 (making 11). Peters led all players with 20 points, but he failed to reach double-digits in rebounds for just the third time in the last 15 games. Tevonn Walker added 16 points in the defeat.
This is a particularly impressive win for Green Bay, given the fact that they lost at Valpo by 24 points a few weeks ago. More importantly, the Phoenix improves to 9-3 (15-9 overall) in the Horizon League, putting them just a half-game behind Valpo’s 9-2 (19-5 overall) record. Both teams firmly hold the league’s top two spots, which is important to get the opening round bye in the Horizon League Tournament. Green Bay has recovered nicely following Sunday’s shocking one-point loss at Detroit Mercy. But now they will embark on a tough four-game road stretch, where all of their games are on the road, beginning Thursday at Northern Kentucky. Meanwhile, Valpo looks to recover back at home, as they begin a two-game stand on Thursday against Cleveland State. Don’t be surprised if these two teams wind up playing one another in the championship game at Joe Louis Arena. Not only have they distanced themselves as the league’s two best teams, they are also the two most experienced teams who are led by seasoned upperclassmen. If they do meet in the title game, it should be an epic because, unfortunately, the Horizon League will not be getting any at-large bids in the NCAA Tournament. Just like last season, Green Bay is starting to peak at the right time.