The 3rd Man In

Milwaukee knocks off Detroit, Valpo up next

Milwaukee is moving on! In the opening round of the Horizon League Tournament, the Milwaukee Panthers (18-13) ended the Detroit Titans season winning 83-73.

The Panthers were up by 21 points, but the Titans never gave up cutting their deficit to five in the second half. Milwaukee was able to hang on, as they shot 51 percent from the floor to snap their five-game home losing streak.

“It’s just good to get back home, play well and make some shots,” said Milwaukee head coach Rob Jeter. “For our guys to play well, to shoot the ball well, and then defensively to make some key stops down the stretch, it’s exciting.

“We’ve done a 180 from last season as far as how we’ve prepared ourselves and how we’ve represented ourselves. I’m just proud of this group because we’ve been tested, but they’ve just figured out a way to respond and bounce back. Clearly we bounced back after our performances here at home.”

Jordan Aaron led five Panther players in double figures with 16 points in his return from suspension. Steve McWhorter added 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists, while Kyle Kelm added 13 points.

Milwaukee also got a big spark off the bench from Cody Wichmann who scored 12 points and JeVon Lyle who contributed with 11.

“It’s good to see guys add off the bench and see guys come in and play with confidence,” Jeter said. “Obviously Austin wasn’t shooting the ball as well as we would like in stretches, but Cody was able to pick up the slack. And J.R, he just provides a different level of energy for us.

“When he makes mistakes it’s because he’s just going so fast. J.R. has been really big for us through this difficult stretch and that’s exciting because he’s a younger player for us.”

Through the first 10 minutes of the first half both teams went back and fourth, but with 7:10 left in the half Milwaukee took the intensity up a notch. They went on a 18-0 run that lasted nearly five minutes, as the Panthers had a 42-28 lead after 20 minutes of play.

“It was good to see us be an attacking team rather than a perimeter-oriented team,” said Jeter. “For us to have that type of run at home – it was good to see that.”

While Milwaukee shot 53.3 percent (16-30) from the field, their success was mainly due to their bench scoring (21 points) and points off of turnovers (20 points).

In the second half the Panthers continued to control the game, until Detroit’s Juwan Howard Jr. took over the game. With 3:50 left in the game he got the Titans back to within five, but was unable to cut their deficit to a one-possession game.

Howard finished the evening with 21 points.

This was an excellent win by the Panthers to continue their season, and if they can play like this the rest of the tournament, there is a good chance that they will win it. They did everything right in the game offensively, but they do need to play better defense as they allowed the Titans to shoot over 50 percent from the field.

Up next the Panthers will face Valparaiso in Green Bay, with the winner moving onto face the Phoenix. This matchup against the Crusaders will be an 8:30 tip with it airing on ESPNU Friday evening.

The Panthers have been excellent on the road recording 11 wins outside of Milwaukee, and they will look to continue their success with their season on the line.

Valpo beat UIC to advance to the second round, and have beat the Panthers both times this season. The Crusaders have been a competitive team again this season as they finished fourth in the league with a 9-7 conference record.

Guard LaVonte Dority led the Crusaders attack as he averages 16.0 points per game while making 45.5 of his shots and 43.7 percent of his three pointers.

It will not be an easy game for the Panthers, but hopefully a third time playing against the Crusaders this season, they can get the job done. If they play even close to what they did against Detroit this will be a great game, and will come down to the wire.


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