MILWAUKEE, WIS. – The Panthers certainly kept the momentum going following the monster road win at Wisconsin, scoring a school-record 125 points in a 51-point drubbing of NAIA Division II Judson University on Sunday afternoon.
Senior J.J. Panoske and junior Akeem Springs led the team with 22 points. The latter had 18 in the first half to help catapult Milwaukee to another school record, this being 66 first-half points. Springs talked about the sustained energy from the victory over the Badgers and maintaining it heading into Horizon League play.
“That Badger win just let us know that we can play with anyone,” he said. “It’s a Big Ten school and they’re struggling right now. We feel like they’ll be better by the end of the year. For us, it’s just a confidence thing. Knowing that we can play with anybody going into the season, going into our conference play, and just trusting the system. Trusting that we can play our game.”
Coach Rob Jeter also commented on keeping up the positive momentum despite the academic storm at the end of the fall semester.
“Every game matters and looking at this one, you can’t overlook it,” he said. “I thought we did a nice job of not doing that. Now we’ve got final exams. We’ve got a whole another challenge. We have guys in final exams and we have a game right in the beginning of that. I was a student athlete. You know how fatigued you can be during finals.”
The home squad, playing at the Klotsche Center, raced out to a 14-0 lead and did not look back, holding a double-digit lead throughout. Every player on the Panthers’ roster played in the game except senior J.R. Lyle, who sat out with an ankle injury. Of those players, all of them scored except for point guard Jordan Johnson, who instead took on an exclusive distribution role. He finished with nine assists and zero turnovers. Today, Johnson won the Horizon League Player of the Week award, in large part due to his gutsy performance against Wisconsin. Jeter talked about the transition from graduated Steve McWhorter to Johnson.
“That was our big question mark,” he said. “We needed a point guard. We knew that last year so we went out early and got him. And we know that that was going to be the one thing that we had to make sure that we had: someone quarterback our team.”
Johnson may be new to the Panthers, but not to Springs, who grew up in the same hometown as Johnson (Waukegan, Ill.).
“I know Jordan,” he said. “I grew up playing with Jordan, so, is it different? They do different things. Steve was more of a scorer, I feel, and Jordan just gets everybody involved. Like I said, I know Jordan, so I don’t even have to say anything to him sometimes. He gets me in great position, as he does everyone. I don’t know if he still is, but he was top of the list in assists for the nation, for a minute. I feel that pushes our team to a different level.”
The point total was not the only thing that was historic for the Panthers. Milwaukee’s torrid percentage from the field (62.7) was the fourth highest in program history. Johnson’s nine assists were part of 32, which tied a program record. Finally, the rebound margin of +28 (55-27) was the second highest in team annals.
Other key scorers included redshirt freshman Brock Stull, who had 18, freshman JayQuan McCloud with 12, juniors Austin Arians and Cody Wichmann with 11 and 10, respectively, and senior Matt Tiby, with 10. Panoske also finished with 10 rebounds. McCloud nearly electrified the Klotsche with a Russell Westbrook-like dunk midway through the second half, but the ball bounced out.
Milwaukee remains at home, except it goes back to the Panther Arena to face South Dakota on Thursday night at 7 p.m.