MILWAUKEE, WIS. – The Panthers went on a 19-6 run to claim their first Horizon League win of the season against conference newcomer Northern Kentucky at Panther Arena, 76-67, on Monday night.
Once again, point guard Jordan Johnson was the star of the night, pouring in 23 points, along with nabbing eight rebounds and dishing out five assists while playing all but three minutes. Coach Rob Jeter discussed the critical nature of the late spurt.
“It was a game of runs and it was the last run that we had that put us over the top,” Milwaukee head coach Rob Jeter said. “It was late, it was the last three minutes or so and Jordy (Jordan Johnson) was a big part of that. I thought J.J. (Panoske) was phenomenal defensively with the blocks, I thought we got a critical stop – one that has eluded us all year.”
Johnson also came up with two huge plays late. He scored on two driving layups-plus-the-foul and converted both three-point plays as part of a 10-2 stretch that turned the game in Milwaukee’s favor for good.
Milwaukee appeared to get control of the game after opening the second half by outscoring the Norse 19-12 in the first five-and-a-half minutes to take a five-point lead. However, the road squad answered with a 17-8 run to go back in front, setting the stage for the late burst.
Panoske’s interior defense certainly fit his coach’s description. He set an individual school record with eight blocked shots, eclipsing his own mark of seven from three seasons ago. The Panthers, as a team, set a program mark in swatted shots with 14. In addition, Panoske finished with 13 points and five boards.
Other key contributors included Matt Tiby, who had another double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, Akeem Springs, who finished with 10 points, and freshman JayQuan McCloud, who was a stat-sheet stuffer with 10 points, three boards, two dimes and two rejections.
Despite a shooting start colder than a Wisconsin winter from UWM (two makes in the first 17 shot attempts, including missing their first nine), the home squad rallied to cut the Norse lead to two at the half. Northern Kentucky led by 10 on two separate occasions during the frame.
Milwaukee was aggressive in combating their shooting woes, driving the lane and drawing fouls. The Panthers shot 30 free throws throughout the game, including 19 in the first half. They made 23 total, 14 in the first twenty minutes. Jeter commented on this plus Johnson’s big and-ones.
“Clearly Jordan at the end with the two and-ones, that was big,” Jeter said. “When you look at the stat sheet and see 30 free throws, that is a good sign for us.”
The hosts rebounded from the early shooting struggles to finish with a 46.2 percent shooting clip. In addition, the Panthers outrebounded the Norse by three, 39-36.
Milwaukee hits the road to Ohio to take on Youngstown State and Cleveland State, respectively. Opening tip against the Penguins is set for Thursday at 6:45 p.m.