The Milwaukee men’s basketball team opened up their season Friday night with an 83-73 win at home vs. UW-La Crosse.
The Panther Pit was filled and rowdy prior to tip-off. UWL came out fast and struck the first points on the board. Milwaukee looked to have some early season jitters coming out of the gate, as well as some miscommunication, leading to some poor offensive possessions early in the half. Jeremy Johnson managed to find the first three points for the Panthers, knocking one in from beyond the arc.
Milwaukee then got into a rhythm with a couple of defensive stops leading to fast break scores. Sophomore August Haas played some smart defense by taking a charge in the paint, sending the ball in the Panthers direction. Late in the first half, the game became a three-point battle. The Eagles kept it close, continuing to find the bottom of the bucket from downtown.
With 2:43 left in the first half, Milwaukee led by eight points and started to pull away. Junior Brock Stull began to feel comfortable from three-point land late in the first half. To close out the first 20 minutes, sophomore guard Bryce Barnes slashed to the basket, connecting on an and-one layup. Both teams shot very well from deep in the first half. The Eagles were 7/13, and the Panthers 6/12. Milwaukee led 51-37 at the break.
The Panthers came out hot in the beginning of the second half with Senior Brett Prahl slamming one home right away. Bryce Barnes brought the energy early on in the second half, hitting a three-pointer with one eye covered by a large bandage. First year transfer Vance Johnson went down, holding his leg. It did not appear to look good.
Coach Baldwin addressed that injury in his postgame presser.
“You know, Vance just had some cramps, just like you know Jeremy was having as well,” said Baldwin. “I think it was kind of unusual you know, for Vance, this has never happened to him before. Hopefully we can get that corrected, and this is just a one-time deal.”
The lone freshman, Carson Warren-Newsome, found his way above the rim off of a beautiful fast break dish by Brock Stull. The fast break offense was a big factor for Milwaukee in the second half, as Bryce Barnes snagged the ball from the Eagles, ending up all by himself at the basket for two easy points.
The Panthers seemed to be a lot more comfortable defensively early on in the first half. UWL forced a turnover that led to points, creating a spark of energy for them. Bryce Barnes commanded the floor in the second half for Milwaukee, scoring the majority of his team high 19 points. He managed to only miss one shot in the entire contest, shooting a very high 86 percent from the floor. Some late game scoring by the Eagles closed the gap a bit, making the loss look less gruesome. The Panthers held on to win by ten.
Overall, Milwaukee shot a solid 63 percent from the floor. The Panthers start off the season 1-0, but look to tighten the reigns as they managed to have 17 turnovers in Friday night’s win.
The men’s team hits the road this coming week, as they battle Iowa State on Monday night in Ames, IA.