Gut check time: Game 24 vs. Green Bay

vs.

Green Bay (12-11, 6-5 HL) vs. Milwaukee (12-11, 7-5 HL)

U.S. Cellular Arena – Milwaukee, Wisconsin – 2 p.m.

TV: ESPNU

It doesn’t get any bigger than this.  All right, it gets better than this, but the fact remains: there are two teams, two fan bases, one rivalry.

It’s rare that these teams are fighting for something this late in a season.  Yet here we are, two of the three teams knotted at 5 losses for fourth place in the conference.  Milwaukee is percentage points ahead due to one more victory during the season, but even if all three teams had identical records, the Panthers would have the 4 seed due to their 2-1 record against Green Bay and Butler.

Brown has been hot and cold offensively, but he was excellent on the defensive end the last time these teams met. (Photo credit to Phoenix Athletics)

That, of course, can change rather quickly on Saturday at 2 p.m. on ESPNU.  Should the Phoenix win, they pull all three teams to 2-2, and any tiebreakers (if Milwaukee were to get ahead over the final weeks) would go to Butler based on its victory over Cleveland State, or Green Bay and Butler with their victories over Valparaiso.

Basically, win on Saturday and we get a tremendous leg up moving forward while keeping pace with Wright State for the #3 seed.  Lose, and we’re looking backwards at a very talented Detroit team breathing down our necks for the #6 seed and a home game in the conference tournament.

There’s no need to illustrate why we’d much rather be locked in the 4 seed instead of sitting ugly at the #6, but the difference right now is a home game against Youngstown State or Detroit in the conference tournament.  Who would you rather play?

Rahmon Fletcher poured in over twenty against Detroit on Sunday. Bet that he'll bring his A game for what will likely be his last game against Milwaukee. (Photo credit to Phoenix Athletics)

As for the game itself, the Panthers lost a five-point game in Green Bay that really wasn’t as close as the score may suggest.  Milwaukee shot a poor 35% from the floor in the game, but the real story was Anthony Hill, who went 2 for 14 from the floor basically because of one man: Alec Brown.  That’s not to take away from the rest of the Phoenix, who did a great job of double-teaming Hill.  But Brown was a wall, a very tall wall.  He racked up three blocks and eight rebounds, adjusting the shots of Hill and anyone else who dared come within five feet of the basket.

And that’s my key to the game.  Hill needs to get the better of the Phantastic Phreshman (yeah I just coined a Green Bay nickname: use it).  If he doesn’t, he needs to still touch the ball on every possession, but be able to pass quickly out of the double team, which you can bet the Phoenix will do since it worked so well on January 9th.  Hill is a decent inside passer, and the Panthers will do well if he can find the open guy quickly when he needs to.

Because the Panthers need to win this game.  And need doesn’t quite cover it.

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