The 3rd Man In

Milwaukee equals best start since 2002-2003

With nearly 2,500 people in attendance, the Milwaukee Panthers were able to hold off the Bradley Braves to continue their winning ways. The Panthers (9-2) did not play their best basketball, but they beat the Braves (5-4) 73-67, to equal their best start since the 2002-2003 season.

“At the end of the day, these guys found a way,” Milwaukee head coach Rob Jeter said. “They really stick together, and it’s always someone else that does something. That’s what I like about this team, when their number is called, they’re ready to step in and make something happen.”

Milwaukee had four different players score in double digits in the win, for the seventh time this season. Kyle Kelm and Austin Arians scored 17 points apiece, while Matt Tiby added 15, and Jordan Aaron contributed 13 off the bench.

“I just do whatever it takes to help the team win. Stats don’t matter to me,” said Kelm. “I’m just going to do the little things.”

After a tough season a year ago, Kelm has been a productive and reliable player for Milwaukee this season averaging 12.6 points per game while grabbing 4.5 rebounds per game.

Not only have the Panthers tied their best start in 11 years, but also with this victory they now have more wins then all of last year.

“It feels good,” Kelm said. “But at the same time, we’re not to where we need to be yet. We still have a lot of work to do.”

In the first half you could see some areas the Panthers still need to work on as they struggled against an athletic team like Bradley. Although Milwaukee only trailed 39-36 at half, it could have been much worse.

Milwaukee did have the lead for most of the first half, but Bradley’s hot shooting kept them around, and they eventually took the 35-33 lead with 2:27 on a made three-point shot by Omari Grier.

The Panthers only shot 40.9 percent (9-22) from the field, with five of their makes coming from three-point territory, compared to the Braves who seemed to make any shot they took, making 54.8 percent (17-31) of their attempts from the floor.

Bradley completely dominated down low as they scored 24 points in the paint compared to Milwaukee’s six.

Free throw shooting kept Milwaukee in the game as they made 13 of their 15 attempts in the first 20 minutes of regulation.

In the second half the Panthers changed their strategy as they looked down low to their big men on the offensive side more frequently.

“That was one thing we stressed (at halftime),” said Jeter. “That is just who we are. We have to get the ball inside, and try to finish around the basket. And the guys did a nice job in the second half of doing that.”

Milwaukee did an outstanding job of scoring down low in the remaining 20 minutes, scoring 20 points in the paint, while taking 13 of their 25 shots inside of the three-point arc.

One problem Milwaukee continued to have in the second half against Bradley was rebounding. They allowed the Braves to outrebound them 22-14, with 12 of them on the offensive side, giving them second chance opportunities.

“Those 26 second-chance points, boy, that’s just a glaring number,” Jeter said.

Although the Panthers struggled at times on the defensive side, they were able to regain the lead with 12:11 left off of an Arians three-point make. The game continued to go back and fourth, with Milwaukee stretching their lead to four at one point, but Bradley continued to fight back.

But with four minutes left Aaron was able to score five straight points to give Milwaukee the 65-60 lead, and with only 39 seconds remaining he hit a three from about 23 feet out to clinch the victory for the Panthers.

Aaron was a huge contributor down the stretch as he scored nine of his 13 points in the final four minutes of play after being taken out of the starting lineup for today’s game after missing class earlier this week.

“For Jordan, it was real simple. He’s a student-athlete, and we take it serious,” said Jeter. “It’s just good that he was able to get back into the game.

“It’s difficult for guys, especially Jordan, who’d been playing well for two straight games, and now we bring him off the bench. But he came through at the end like a senior should. A running layup, a deep three – it was good to see him bounce back.”

Milwaukee finished the game shooting 48.9 percent (23-47) from the field, including 36 percent (9-25) from long range. They also made 18 of their 24 free throw attempts, and had only 11 turnovers.

On Wednesday, Milwaukee will travel to the Kohl Center to face instate rival, Wisconsin at 7 p.m.

“His (Bo Ryan’s) team is very talented,” Jeter said. “The thing that is scary when you look at the Wisconsin team is that they make shots – they can shoot. It’s going to be difficult to guard them. But we’re going to show up, 9-2, ready to play, and have some fun.”

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