Close games, big wins and questionable losses have been the mantra for the Panthers this season. A tough stretch of road games has been no different, as Milwaukee has lost three out of four, including two of the last three, during a five-game road trip to finish off the away portion of the schedule. After February 13th’s 80-66 loss to Detroit, the Panthers travel to Green Bay for round two of the intrastate rivalry in dire need of re-gained momentum.
The day before Valentine’s Day certainly was not one of love for UWM. The Panthers, playing in the fourth of five consecutive roadies, lost by 14 points in a game where the rim was playing hard to get, as the team only shot 32.6 percent from the field. Senior forward Matt Tiby led Milwaukee with 22 points, but junior point guard Jordan Johnson was the only other Panther in double figures with 12. Coach Rob Jeter commented on the shortcomings against the Titans.
“We worked hard and battled,” he said. “But the key was not being able to get some of those big rebounds and, obviously, not making shots. That was one of the first games all season where our most consistent guys didn’t have their normal nights. When you put that all together, it gives you one of these tough losses.”
Detroit held control of the game from start to finish, opening up on an 11-2 run and finished with a 53.1 percent shooting clip. In addition, the home squad dominated the inside scoring, finishing with a 46-18 edge on points in the paint. Forwards Paris Bass and Carlton Brundidge paced the Titans’ attack with a combined 40 points and 22 rebounds.
Johnson led UWM with five assists. Junior forward Austin Arians led the Panthers on the boards with seven.
A measure of revenge was in store for Milwaukee on Tuesday, February 9, as the Panthers avenged a home loss. UWM invaded Oakland and came away with a 93-85 victory. Three players finished with double-doubles and all five starters scored in double figures to spearhead an explosive offensive attack. Milwaukee shot 50.8 percent from the field. Jeter commended his team’s clutch offense down the stretch.
“We had to make shots to put these guys away and we did a nice job,” he said. “When I look at the stat sheet and see their shooting percentage at only 39 percent and that we won the rebounding battle, I am pretty pleased with that.”
Tiby and fellow senior forward J.J. Panoske finished with the power double-doubles while Johnson had his the floor general’s way. Each forward finished with 11 rebounds, while Tiby had 24 points to Panoske’s 17. Johnson ended the game with 14 points and ten assists. Jeter talked about the double-double trio.
“That’s phenomenal,” he said. “J.J. was big for us tonight and Tiby, of course, but Jordy just runs our team. He’s our quarterback.”
The Horizon League’s top player, Grizzlies’ point guard Kahlil “Kay” Felder, was his usual dominant self, finishing with 22 points, 12 assists, six rebounds and four steals. Forward Jalen Hayes added 22 points and eight boards of his own.
Milwaukee sure received a rude welcome from the Horizon League’s newcomer last Saturday (February 6), when Northern Kentucky served the Panthers a 75-71 setback. This came after UWM held a 39-32 halftime lead and had the upper hand throughout most of the game. Tiby, Panoske and Johnson all finished with double figures, and Johnson had ten assists to boot. Jeter discussed the emotions following the rough finish.
“The guys in that locker room are really hurting right now,” he said. “It’s going to be a real test of who we are and to figure out how can continue to bounce back after this. I’ve said it time and time again, those guys work hard and have great attitudes. But, sometimes we need to pay a little more attention to the details that will help us win.”
Panoske was the top player for the Panthers against the Norse, finishing with 21 points and eight boards. Tiby had ten and seven. Johnson, while finishing with the double-double, also had eight turnovers. Arians chipped in significantly, adding nine points and nine boards.
Jalen Billups, a 6-6 center in a small NKU lineup, led the way for the hosts with 20 points. Guard Cole Murray added 15 points on five 3-pointers, but earned brownie points for timeliness. After Panoske hit a trey to put Milwaukee up by 11, Murray nailed three triples as part of a 26-11 finish for the home squad.
Milwaukee will look to regain their footing against the Phoenix in their final road game of the season before finishing at Panther Arena for its final four games. Tip against Green Bay is set for Monday at 7 p.m.