MILWAUKEE – Jordan Johnson’s blonde dyeing of his hair may have been a good luck charm, as the Panthers got a career-high 25 points from their point guard and used a huge second half to overcome Detroit, 83-80, at UWM Panther Arena on Saturday afternoon.
An offensive foul call on Johnson that was reversed and a technical foul on Detroit following a long official review, free throws and timeouts caused the last 40 seconds of action to span roughly 15 minutes of real time. Senior reserve guard J.R. Lyle put the game away with a one-hand fast-break jam off a feed from senior forward Matt Tiby. Coach Rob Jeter elaborated on the long final stretch.
“Well, I am glad there wasn’t another three seconds left on the clock,” he said. “It’s a tough game and you have two teams who are really battling and trying to get themselves in position in this league. You are going to have games like that. I thought Detroit came in and did a really nice job of keeping us off-balance and disrupting our rhythm and our timing.”
The first half’s final ten minutes did not bode well for Milwaukee offensively. After Johnson was saddled with his second foul, the home squad went into a serious offensive drought, scoring one field goal in that span en route to a 37-31 deficit at the break. Jeter acknowledged the importance of having his floor general.
“That first half got a little scary when Jordy went down with two (fouls) and I think as a result, we might have scored one bucket in about 10 minutes,” he said. “He’s our leader, our floor general and for the first time this year we had to battle a little adversity with him off the court. There were a lot of things happening tonight and we just found a way.”
The offensive output in the second half (52 points) sure was needed, because the Panthers struggled defensively, allowing 43 Titans points on 54.2 percent shooting. Milwaukee got going right away out of the break, as the team hit its first five shots from the field, including a three from Johnson that tied the game at 41 three minutes into the frame.
Tiby had a highlight-reel slam in the lane that put UWM up 57-55 with 12 minutes to play, and, even though the game was dramatic down the stretch, the home squad never trailed after that.
Johnson, one of the nation’s top passers, once again put up a healthy display of dimes with six, and had four rebounds to boot. Senior guard Akeem Springs, who scored five key points to extend a two-point lead to seven, finished with 12 points and seven boards. Tiby had 14 points and 8 snags. Lyle and senior forward J.J. Panoske finished with 10 and 12 points, respectively.
The Titans top contributors were forward Chris Jenkins and guard Paris Bass, who finished with 20 and 18 points, respectively. In addition, the pair combined for 14 rebounds.
Milwaukee stays at home for a matchup tonight with Oakland. Tip is scheduled for 8 p.m.