Panthers Kick Off Preseason NIT Tourney With.... a Thud

It is not with great pleasure that I report (rather late) that your Milwaukee Panthers did not care care of business in either Game 1 (lost to WKU 69-65) or Game 2 (lost to ISU 79-63) of the NIT Season Kickoff in Baton Rouge, LA. To be fair we played a perennial contender in Western Kentucky and an Indiana State team who seems on the rise.

The first game was as exciting as they get. The Panthers traded barbs with the Hilltoppers all night- even taking several leads that seemed to confirm the optimism many UWM fans had coming into this season. But eventually the highlight reel that is AJ Slaughter (30pts) wore us down to the ground.

Victory against the Hilltoppers essentially came down to a possession or two at the end (there was a mix-up between Tony Meier and Riley Walker that was indicative of early season jitters and likely won't happen later in the season when things are clicking on all cylinders).

The next contest was a bit of a downer. I think most Panther fans thought we were a better team than Indiana State and were going to come out fairly comfortably on top (though the line was -1.5 ISU). But in a twist of early season fate, the Milwaukee defense was out-hustled to death and got virtually nothing from our two best players (Eayrs was a dismal 4-18 from the field and Franklin only contributed 5pts, 2ast, and 3stl). Deonte Roberts was one of the lone shining stars with a 13 point, 7 rebound effort. But bottom line- we played like crap in this one.

A Panther team that would've shot better than .353 from the field and .250 from 3pt, probably would have won this, or at least gotten a little less embarrassed. Credit should be given where credit is due though. State absolutely killed us with their 9-15 (.600) perimeter attack and amazing touch from the field (.577 on 30-52) ISU completely out-muscled and outplayed the Panthers and wanted the win more. That killer instinct that Jeter has been talking about needs a little more sharpening it seems.

But... the reality is that, while these games are important- and winning at least 1 would have been considered a minor success, the season goes on- 26+ more games on. That being said, if the Panthers lose against Hillsdale this coming Saturday at home or lose one or (gasp!) both of the remaining NIT Season Kickoff games next week:

Texas State, Monday, November 23rd 6:30pm

Colgate, Tuesday, November 24th 6:30pm could spell trouble for the season, but really only in terms of any hopes of an at-large NIT or other postseason tournament. As has been the case these past 3 years- we can always pin hopes on Horizon League Tournament Championship (Autobid) or bust!). But it's too early for defeatist talk. I think the team will rebound nicely at home against Hillsdale and should pick up a couple more wins in Texas to finish out the NIT Season Kickoff. We did just lose against some pretty tough competition, know? That experience was not lost on these guys and I'm sure they are ready to roll.

It hasn't been an ideal beginning to the season, but there will be a lot more chances for these Panthers to prove that they are contenders (contenders in the Horizon League at the very least!). Losing both games in Baton Rouge won't do much to bolster the lethargic ticket sales at the Cell, but regardless- if you are a true UWM fan- get out and cheer this team on to a 2-2 record this Saturday afternoon. We all need to support this team in high tide and in low tide.


Saturday, November 21st, 1pm
US Cellular Arena, Milwaukee, WI
Milwaukee vs. Hillsdale
Regular Season Game 4