Few expected Horizon League’s fifth seeded Milwaukee Panthers to win more than one game during the conference’s tournament. The Panthers are the lowest seed to ever win the Horizon League Tournament.
The play of Kyle Kelm in the final game of the season against Wright State is one of the big reasons why Milwaukee is headed back to the NCAA Tournament. Kelm ended the game leading the team in scoring with 20 points and rebounds with 9.
Kelm said that he does not consider himself a scorer and that he is comfortable doing whatever the team needs him to do to win.
“I just need to be a low post presence for our team,” Kelm said. “I’ll do anything it takes for our team to win. We have great guards that can shoot outside and we have me and Tiby inside. It just worked out for us.”
Kelm fits into Head Coach Rob Jeter’s game plan perfectly. Kelm is able to attract attention in the low post, which helps open things up on the outside for guards Jordan Aaron and Steve McWhorter.
“We are an inside out team. We like to play physical,” Jeter said. “We want to play with the basketball going inside into the post. You need a post presence, that’s Kyle Kelm.”
For the most part, Kelm came off the bench last season. Of his 25 appearances, 11 were made in the starting lineup. This season, he has started 28 of the 34 games that he has appeared in. Kelm ended the season second in scoring and second in rebounds for the team, finishing behind Aaron and Matt Tiby respectively.
Kelm said the team made great strides from their last place finish last season. The team also had to deal with a lot of doubt during the season, especially after a 30 point loss against UIC on UWM’s senior night.
“I just think there were a lot of emotions that night, things weren’t clicking and everybody just seemed out of it,” Kelm said.
Senior leadership is an important aspect for this team’s turnaround according to many of the Panther players.
“It starts with the seniors, we had great leadership throughout the year,” Tiby said.
The focus for Kelm and the team now switches over to the NCAA Tournament and their first round opponent: Villanova. Kelm and the team want to end the senior’s season the best way possible and can’t think of a better way than some time in the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s crazy how teams that get hot at the end of the season can do anything and that [the Horizon League Championship] just proves it.” Kelm said.