Franklin Can't Do it Alone in Attempted Ohio Road Sweep

First off, these are the only stats I am going to mention. Big Lumber and Ant had pretty good games against Youngstown State, and Ja'Rob McCallum showed up against Cleveland State, but let's be honest, there is one Panther that has been carrying this team the past few games. Without Ricky Franklin manning the point, I am scared to think where we might be (9th place?).

Rick has proved to be a literal "Iron Man" for UWM (leads the Horizon League at nearly 36 minutes per (35.7), and played the entire game against YSU). Franklin's performance against Younsgstown State was incredible. He pushed us out to a lead and countered every YSU attempt to get back in the game. At one point, Rick buried a 17-footer from behind the backboard, near one of the Panthers' corners of the court.

Rick scored 21 points to go along with 5 boards against the Penguins. He then followed that up with 23 points and 5 assists in the Cleveland loss. It goes without saying that #5 is elavating his game... if only everyone else would take his lead.

The Panthers felt pretty good after knocking off Youngstown State 69-59 in front of a nationally televised ESPNU audience. YSU is no Butler, yes, but the team had climbed to 12-8 (4-4) and looking at the other teams in the middle of the pack,

Panther fans had reason to be somewhat optimistic as we head into the meat-grinder portion of the season (some teams will fade fast, others will rise to the top 2, 3 spots (Butler seems very unwilling to release their stranglehold on #1).
So it was of to Cleveland State to see what this team is made of.

A couple of big road wins in a row (even if against < .500 competition (CSU's noncon schedule was downright brutal), would have been something to seriously motivate this team, this program, and this fan base. No dice.

As the mediocre play settled back in, we were forced to relinquish victory in the closing minutes (Milwaukee led the entire game- even by as much as 14 just minutes into the 2nd half). Alas, the lead dwindled down the stretch and Norris Cole hit a very timely three with just 6.9 seconds left. Milwaukee could not recover. The Vikings triumphed, and stole the win, 73-72.

Geez, if only we could get back the Valpo and CSU games.. we'd be in pretty good shape! (tell that to Marquette, Detroit and some other teams who have lost 3-4 games by the most razor-thin of margins!! lol). No sympathy for us- we just can't hold on to sizable leads apparently, and (outside of YSU so far..) we can't seem to win "winnable" road games.

There is still Detroit, Wright State, Loyola, and Green Bay all lying in wait- all on the road. Some say the season ended on Sunday when we folded like cardboard boxes down the stretch. I say the aforementioned road games will make or break whatever success is left to capture this season. But it ain't over yet!

We still have 10 games to go (9 conference and the home ESPN Bracketbuster). And our record is hardly going to completely doom any chance of getting into 2nd place (12-9 (4-5)). But you can put as much lipstick as you want on a wounded Panther... and it's still.... a wounded Panther.
I am more apathetic about this team than I would like to let on... Not angry (I think a lot of us are almost getting used to not having a true "championship" competitor in the black and gold), not happy, just kinda "blah". I will keep reporting on this less-than incredibly exciting (so far) season and be keeping an eye out for that final Milwaukee Panthers push (which is the one single thing that could save this season).

It sounds short-sighted, but from everything I have seen this year, Ricky Franklin's game and experience is what is keeping us in the conversation- but it won't be enough alone. Eayrs, Roberts, Hill, Averkamp, Meier, Ja'Rob, Lonnie, etc.- everyone has to get on board and start reaching for their true potential. It would really be a shame to see such a waste of talent this season.

Coming up......... This Friday night against Valparaiso at the Cell (7pm) will be yet another chance for this team to keep some hope alive. Or better yet- start generating some buzz and excitement among the masses than have gone to sleep. Ignite that torch. They can't put it out once we light it.