Milwaukee Outlasts Ball State in Overtime to Improve to 5-2, Prepare for Chicago Invasion

The Milwaukee Panthers did it again. In contrast to many close games in recent years, (for the fourth time in a row no less) they found a way to win. The Panthers edged out Ball State in overtime 90-83 behind the stellar play of Deonte Roberts (17pts, 6rbs, 3ast), Ricky Franklin (13pts, 4rbs, 4ast), Lonnie Boga (11pts, 4rbs, 3ast), and James Eayrs (16pts, 8rbs, 3ast). Ja'Rob McCallum, Jason Averkamp, and even Ant played great games as well. We may have lost with lesser contributions from any one of these Panthers.

It was a hard fought, see-saw battle from the get-go- one that the Panthers seemed all but destined to lose down the closing stretch as BSU was up by as much as 4pts with just over a few minutes remaining. But the resilient Panthers proved once again that they are up to the challenge of salvaging victory in the face of impending defeat.

Major props to Jason Averkamp who, despite missing some bunny shots from the field and several free throws in regulation- brought out his European alter ego, "Igor Kampovich" and ever-so-cooly knocked down two three pointers that spelled G-A-M-E in OT. The Ball State Falcons put up a great fight, but it is with great pride I can report that this team did not wilt under pressure and came back to the Mil with another W in hand.

4 players in double digits. Tony Meier (9pts, 4rbs, 1blk) started to look like the Tony Meier of old in the first half, but was hampered yet again by foul trouble in the second. Just 11 turnovers. Semi-solid field goal, free throw, and 3pt percentages... This team may be on to something? We will soon find out if this 4 game winning streak is legit or just fool's gold as UWM gears up for home games against UIC (Thursday night) and Loyola (Saturday night) at the Cell.

If we win one- maybe we can root for finishing in the top 3 or 4 of the Horizon. If we win both? I won't even speculate about final HL standings- I will say though that we could go into the Marquette game with more than just a "oh, let's just keep it close for most of the game" attitude. We could pull an FSU- as unexpectedly good as Marquette has been in this early season, they have serious weaknesses that can be exploited (lack of size, depth, and D-I experience).

I have only a few times seen a team wilt as badly as MU did down the stretch against Florida State. I honestly cringed when I saw Buzz Williams beaming with the joy of success after yet another three by Marquette to put them up by 17 midway through the second half. Buzz probably knows that he should know better- but in college basketball- 17pts up with over 10 minutes to go is by no means "game over". I could almost feel the tide start to turn immediately after that timeout.

That being said- we need someone, some really, really quick, to guard Darius Johnson-Odom. I thought I was watching some sort of expert English pickpocket the way Johnson-Odom singlehandedly made steal after near-steal- disrupting FSU's offense and more disturbingly- their inbound. The Panthers will not have the luxury of falling back on big men like Seminoles. At least not "as" big of big men. But yet again- I get ahead of myself.

We could lose both of these two Chicago games yet- and then our confidence won't be near what it needs to be to even talk of pulling an FSU on Marquette. We have business to take care of this week downtown- let's show our support, have faith, and count on our guys to protect home base and get these uber-important pair of conference wins.

If one good thing has come out of the absence of Tone Boyle- it has to be the increased minutes for guards like Deonte Roberts, Ja'Rob McCallum, and Lonnie Boga. These three are proving that they are seriously deserving of significant minutes. Deonte has done this in the past... and then played his way out of the regular rotation with excessive turnovers and bad decisions.

The great thing this time around is, 'Te seems much more in control of everything- the ball, the team, the game, and most importantly- himself. He may never be able to knock down threes like Ricky and Big James- but his slashes to the hole are rivaled by few. Deonte simply does what it takes to get to the hoop.

Come out, come out, wherever you are Panther fans. 5-2 is our best start since '04-'05. And I'll bet you can remember that season........ Let's help this team as much as we can- they may very well keep on winning. And if anyone says "It can't be done". Just remember- it already has been done. We're just living in the past, trying to (conjure up/recall that past and) get back to the future.