The 3rd Man In

Milwaukee storms back to beat Northern Iowa

Coming into the season the Milwaukee Panthers received little respect as everyone expected them to struggle for a second consecutive season, but with some new faces and a change of culture, the Panthers have made a complete 180.

Tonight, Milwaukee (8-2) tied their win total from a season ago as they came back and beat Northern Iowa (3-4) 83-72 at the U.S. Cellular Arena.

“Every year you kind of look at your team and kind of feel good about things and feel a little nervous about others,” head coach Rob Jeter said. “It was good to see in front of our fans tonight, that we were able to win over our style on two teams that are very similar.”

This win was truly a team effort as four different players scored in double figures. Matt Tiby and Jordan Aaron led the way as each of them scored 19 points, while Steve McWhorter added 16, and Austin Arians finished with 11.

Kyle Kelm also continued to produce as he nearly had a double-double, scoring nine points, while grabbing eight rebounds.

In the first half Northern Iowa had the advantage on both sides of the ball. While Milwaukee began the game with a made jump shot by Tiby from the free throw line to give them the 2-0 lead, Northern Iowa went on to hold the lead for the remainder of the first half.

In fact, through the first five minutes Northern Iowa jumped out to the lead scoring nine unanswered points, while going on a 13-3 run to hold a 13-5 lead over Milwaukee.

Milwaukee had numerous opportunities to tie the game up as they were within one point of Northern Iowa twice in the final 7:21 remaining in the first half, but anytime they got close, Northern Iowa went on another run.

After one half of play, Northern Iowa appeared to be the better team as they went into halftime with the 38-31 lead, and shot slightly better from the field (45.5%) compared to Milwaukee (41.4%). But once both teams came out for the second half, Milwaukee looked like a totally different team.

They came out with more energy and aggression. Within the first four minutes Milwaukee stormed back, and tied the game up at 42-42 on a Tiby three point field goal.

On their next offensive possession, Milwaukee took the lead on a Jordan Aaron layup, and from there, Milwaukee left Northern Iowa in the rear view mirror. Milwaukee held the lead the remainder of the way, as their defense was able to slow Northern Iowa’s offense down.

Milwaukee did extend their lead to 61-47 with 10:18 remaining, and that was the dagger as 14 points was just too many for Northern Iowa to overcome.

In this game Milwaukee finished the game shooting 45 percent from the field including 37 percent from behind the arc, while Northern Iowa fell off in the second half as they finished 40.6 percent shooting from the floor and 20.8 percent from three-point territory.

Milwaukee was also able to out-rebound Northern Iowa, 42-33, after trailing at halftime 20-16.

“We outrebounded them, I thought we shared the ball, and I thought in the second half we made a point to get the ball inside,” said Jeter. “The guys stuck to that plan and I’m very proud of them.”

Milwaukee had to earn this victory against Northern Iowa, as it was not easy facing a great Mid-Major program like Northern Iowa, who has made five-straight NCAA Tournament appearances. This was a special game, not only because they came from behind to win, but after the disappointing season a year ago. As the clock was ticking down in the final seconds, the fans were on their feet giving the Milwaukee Panthers a well deserved standing ovation.

“It was good to get the standing ovation after the end of the game,” Steve McWhorter said. “Last year is behind us. It’s a new year. I think every game that we come home we want to show our fans that it’s a new year for us, and that they are going to get some different result this year.”

The new faces, along with the added excitement and change of culture, have revived the basketball program. While they still have some work to do in order to win a conference championship, the Panthers have proven that they will be a competitive and dangerous team this season.

“We just found a way,” said Jeter. “Down 11 to a team that’s very disciplined and well-coached like Northern Iowa, things could have gotten out of hand quickly. But this group found a way to do it the tough way. There weren’t a lot of jump shots, it was more inside. And I think that’s our identity.”

The Panthers will try to continue their impressive start to the season as the will take on the Bradley Braves this Saturday afternoon, but this will not be played downtown, instead they will square off at the Klotsche Center.

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