Panthers' Slide Reaches 6

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Badgers came to town this past Wednesday night, amid a light spattering of fanfare- mostly from UW fans in and around the Milwaukee and Madison areas who can't get a ticket to Badger games at the ever-sold out Kohl Center. Well, us UWM fans didn't expect much out of this came- my hopes were that UWM would get keep the game within 20 points, and, they almost did!

The student section was amazing (easily over 2,000 students packed the south end of the Arena forming a sea of gold which hearkened back to the "golden era" when students loved to come out to games and see the Panthers build up one home winning streak after another- indeed the Cell was a feared place to play for opponents until the program's recent struggles) .

The Badgers were tested early on with Torre Johnson (10pts in 27 min) hitting some beautiful hanging jumpers over their monster front line. Torre was quickly caught up in foul trouble though, and no one else really stepped up to keep the game close. The Badgers made several mistakes in the first half, essentially offering UWM the lead (and possessions to build on it), but the Panthers could not capitalize (stat that stares out at you like a lost hope- Milwaukee actually won the turnover battle, committing 17 to UW's 18; 'gotta convert when we get those turnovers- right now it's just not happening).

Surprisingly, UWM was able to handle the size and strength of the Badgers much better than I think most UWM fans would have predicted before the game. Tim Flowers, whose early freshman season struggles have been well documented, actually looked a lot like the prized recruit everyone was exited about in the off season (and after the exhibition game and first game vs. Upper Iowa- he kinda disappeared after that, missing an uncharacteristic number of post shots, missing free throws, and turning the ball over). Flowers (6pts, had some incredible moves down low, dibbing, dabbing, and moving fluidly around the likes of Butch, Krabbenhoft, and Bohannon for 3 impressive-looking points in the paint. Woe is our team when Paige Paulsen doesn't shoot- Paige attempted only 6 shots, and only scoring on one which was goal tended. His one three point attempt missed the mark.

The Panthers on the whole played defense pretty well against a very good Wisconsin Badger offense, but the offense on their end was a discombobulated throughout most of the game., and the Badgers (esp. the Jeter-recruited Trevon Hughes) were just too much. One enjoyable Panther highlight that I remembered was Kevin Johnson setting up and knocking down a nice trey (his only shot of the night) in the final minute or two. I say this because KJ has been like a ghost on the bench after getting a lot of (fairly unproductive- but remember he's playing his first year of D-1 college b-ball) playing time early on in the season).

I hope KJ (as Flowers seemed to) find his rhythm and starts playing like he is capable of, here and now, this season. We need people to step up and seize opportunities- playing time is not granted for anyone so far save Torre and Paige. I've said it time and time again, but I repeat: if this team wants to win any significant amount of basketball games (ie. eclipse last year's grand total of "9" wins), they need to start shooting the ball better and, most of all from 3 point land. Torre (and hopefully Tim if he has indeed gotten his groove back) and Tim down low scoring down low can only do so much. They aren't in the game for 40 minutes, and Paige, Marcus, and KJ aren't the kind of guys who are going to move mountains (or in Torre's case "shoot over" mountains) down there.

Well Central Michigan is up next, downtown at the Cell. I hope we can end this painful losing streak, and get back on the winning track. That makes everyone a lot more happy- players, coaches, and fans alike. And you know, teams tend to play a lot better (and have fun doing it) when these three parties are content. The old cliche adage to rationalize losses says "you don't win 'em all". Well there's a spin to that as well- "you don't lose 'em all". How a "W" and some impressive play to jump start this program out of deep freeze? Let's get 'em Panthers.