The 3rd Man In

Panthers will compete in the NIU Invitational

Milwaukee Panthers (1-1) vs. San Jose State Spartans (0-1)
Location: Convocation Center – DeKalb, Illinois
Time: 6:30 p.m. ET/CT
Broadcast: WISN (AM 1130)

After knocking off Davidson on Monday, the Milwaukee Panthers will return to action this weekend as they participate in the Northern Illinois University Invitational. The Panthers will begin the Invitational on Friday against the San Jose State Spartans.

Last season the Spartans struggled going 9-20, and since then they have hired a new coach and moved to the Mountain West conference. While fans expected them to be improved this year, their season did not start off well, as they lost to Santa Clara, 89-77, on Tuesday.

The Spartans, who feature an up-tempo style offense, were able to do a decent job from the free throw line making 22 of 29 opportunities for 75.9 percent, but they did struggle from behind the arc. They were only able to make 30.4 percent (7-23) of their three point shots, which could hurt them against a better team like Milwaukee.

Junior forward, Jaleel Williams is the Spartans top offense option. In their first game he scored 20 points and added six rebounds, even though he was in foul trouble for most of the game. He took the most shots for San Jose State, making five of 11 shot attempts including a disappointing two of seven from long range.

Joining Williams in the starting lineup is guards Jalen James and Isaac Thornton, and forwards Brandon Mitchell and Chris Cunningham. Rashad Muhammad will come off the bench for the Spartans, and the Panthers will need to keep their eyes on him since he was a real threat in their first game scoring 15 points in 25 minutes of action.

Milwaukee Panthers (1-1) vs. James Madison Dukes (0-1)
Location: Convocation Center – DeKalb, Illinois
Time: 6:30 p.m. ET/CT
Broadcast: WISN (AM 1130)

On Saturday the Panthers will face off against the James Madison Dukes in their second game of the Invitational. The Dukes are coming off of a 61-41 loss to #24 Virginia last week and will face Northern Illinois on Friday.

Last season James Madison won the Colonial Athletic Association and made a NCAA Tournament appearance, but they only have two starters and five letter winners returning from that team. The Dukes were predicted to finish in seventh this season, as they are now the second youngest team in the country.

In their lone game this season, they struggled mightily on the offensive side of the ball as they only scored 14 points in the first half, but were able to show signs of improvement in the final 20 minutes. Overall in the game they shot 31.3 percent (15-48) from the field, and 24 percent (6-25) from three-point territory. They also struggled to get to the free throw line, as they only had six attempts, and got destroyed on the boards (27-45).

One player the Panthers will need to keep their eye on is forward, Andrey Semenov, who is playing in his sixth college basketball season due to injuries over his career. The versatile, pick-and-pop forward ranks among the program’s all-time leaders in three-point accuracy, but struggled in the team’s first game scoring only eight points, while grabbing five rebounds, and shooting 3-12 from the field.

James Madison uses a bigger lineup, as they are the sixth tallest team in the country. Joining Semenov in the starting lineup will be guards Ron Curry and Charles Cooke, and forwards Tom Vodanovich and Taylor Bessick.

Milwaukee Panthers (1-1) vs. Northern Illinois University Huskies (0-1)
Location: Convocation Center – DeKalb, Illinois
Time: 4:30 p.m. ET/CT
Broadcast: WISN (AM 1130)

In the final game of the Invitational, the Milwaukee Panthers will square off against the host, Northern Illinois University. This will be the 29th meeting between these two schools as the Huskies lead the all-time series against the Panthers, 17-11 and hold a 10-3 advantage in games in DeKalb, Illinois. But over the course of the last three matchups the Panthers have had more luck winning all three games.

After going 5-25 a season ago, the Huskies are now an experienced team with eight letter winners returning from last season.

In the Huskies first game of the season they suffered a home loss to Nebraska Omaha last week. NIU was holding the lead for most of the game until Nebraska Omaha was able to edge out the Huskies late, due to some timely free throw shooting.

The Huskies also did an awful job shooting from behind the arc (3-16 for 18.8%) and from the charity strip (15-28). This could really hurt them in this tournament, and especially against a good team like the Panthers.

Milwaukee native, Darrell Bowie is the top offensive option for NIU. The sophomore forward had a solid performance in the Huskies first game with 16 points and four rebounds, and will be their main go to player this season.

Joining him in the starting lineup will be guards Travon Baker and Dontel Highsmith, forward Aksel Bolin, and center Pete Rakocevic.

Milwaukee Panthers Starting Lineup

In the Panthers first two games they have used the same lineup featuring three guards and two forwards. Panther fans should expect the lineup to remain the same, as long as there are no injuries, since the team has been playing well. At the three guard spots will be Steve McWhorter, Jordan Aaron and Thierno “BoBo” Niang, and JJ Panoske and Matt Tiby starting down low.

Austin Arians and Kyle Kelm will most likely be the first two players off the bench since they have been productive and reliable options this season.

Final Thoughts on the NIU Invitational

Milwaukee is coming off an excellent performance against Davidson this past Monday. If they are able to play like they did against the Wildcats by doing the little things right, and doing an exceptional job from the charity strip, they will have no problem dominating the Invitational since all three of these teams are no were near the same level as Davidson.

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