The first round of the Horizon League Tournament takes place at the home of the better seeds, and the three schools that earned that right all made it count Tuesday night.
Green Bay defeated Milwaukee 62-46, and Illinois-Chicago trounced Cleveland State 82-59, as they advanced to meet each other Friday night when the tournament switches its location to Valparaiso.
The Phoenix were led by the three usual suspects, Keifer Sykes, Jordan Fouse and Alec Brown. Sykes, named to the first team all-conference Monday, had 16 points, six rebounds and five assists in the win. Fouse, one of the selections to the newcomer team, finished with yet another double-double for the Phoenix: 12 points and 11 rebounds, with three blocks thrown in for good measure.
A six-point halftime lead quickly bloomed to 15 by the first media timeout in the second half. The Panthers never got within 10 points after that while a few Sykes free throws in the final minutes helped to close it out.
Milwaukee's Paris Gulley had 14 points and six rebounds in the loss.
Down I-43 and I-94 a bit, UIC got its boost from its own newcomer. Josh Crittle, the preseason transfer from Central Florida amid its scandal, scored 20 points, including 10 from the free throw line, and had six rebounds, three assists and two blocks for the Flames.
Daniel Barnes added 16 points and eight rebounds, while Gary Talton had 11 points and five assists.
This one never really was in doubt as UIC began with a 30-6 run that left the Vikings in the dust. No matter how good he is, newcomer of the year Bryn Forbes (16 points) wasn't going to lead Cleveland State back. (The Vikings are another team that is wondering what could have been. They lost Anton Grady, who should have been one of the top players in the league, to a knee injury early this season and never recovered.)
Green Bay and UIC will play at 8:30 p.m. Friday night. The game will be streamed online.