Wis.-Green Bay no longer in tournament shadows

March 19, 1994|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Sun Staff Writer

OGDEN, Utah -- It's selection Sunday, nearly a week ago, and the California Bears find out their NCAA first-round opponent is Wisconsin-Green Bay. Amid the cries of "Who?" California coach Todd Bozeman immediately hit the phones. "I called a lot of people," Bozeman said. "And all they said was, 'Ooh.' "

"Ooh" because, while not well-known, Wisconsin-Green Bay is well-respected. The Phoenix is playing in the postseason for the fourth straight year, losing in the first round of the 1991 tournament to Michigan State, 60-58, after Steve Smith hit a shot at the buzzer.

On Thursday, the 12th-seeded Phoenix (27-6) pulled off the biggest surprise of the first round with a 61-57 win over the fifth-seeded Bears, and today it will look to advance to the Sweet 16 when it takes on No. 4 Syracuse (22-6).

In the other second-round game at the Dee Events Center, No. 1 seed Missouri (26-3) will face No. 9 Wisconsin (18-10).

But the talk of Ogden was of the "Cheeseheads" from Wisconsin-Green Bay, who stole some of the thunder from their better-known rivals, the Wisconsin Badgers. The team that Bozeman said reminded him of "five Kyle Macys," referring to the former Kentucky star, used its tenacious defense to frustrate California All-American Jason Kidd (12 points, 4-for-17 shooting).

"Defensively, they don't give up too many shots," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said of a Wisconsin-Green Bay defense that ranked third in the nation. "[They're] a lot like Princeton with its offensive movement. They make you defend the entire 35 seconds."

Phoenix coach Dick Bennett, known for his one-liners, was asked what was the difference between his style and that of Princeton's.

"They're really smart at Princeton; we're a state school," Bennett said. "They run plays, and we run motion. We're trying to schedule them in our tournament -- we'll probably set basketball back a couple hundred years."

On the court, Bennett and the Phoenix are all business. Their deliberate motion offense frustrates defenders, often resulting in easy layups. And their man-to-man defense completely shuts off the middle of the court.

Boeheim said he doesn't plan to take Wisconsin-Green Bay out of its game.

"You can't make a turtle run," Boeheim said. "You press teams like that and -- if they're smart -- they'll get easy baskets. To press is to gamble. And any time you gamble, you open yourself up to the consequences."

Today's second game will match Missouri, which beat Navy in the first round, 76-53, Thursday night, against Wisconsin of the Big Ten. The Tigers, the Big Eight regular-season champions, look to advance past the second round for the first time in their past four tournament appearances.

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