Green Bay Bests Milwaukee 61-54.... Tempers Flare, Frustration Mounts

And so we lose again.... but to Green-fricking-Bay????

Ja'Rob McCallum and Anthony Hill led the Panthers paltry scoring attack with 13 a piece. Ryan Haggerty (6pts, 3rbs), the newest member of Milwaukee's constantly-evolving starting rotation, continued where he left off against Butler and looked very much like the experienced swing power forward he is poised to be in the first half of this game.

In a direct nod to those of us who have wondered whether or not there is a moratorium on dunking since Jeter took over the program, Ant jammed home (rather half-heartedly) a refreshing 2 points mid-way through the first half... but that was about as exciting as this one got. Ugly on both ends, and lacking much of the drama usually synonymous with this rivalry (I will not count the fictitious Jeter/Fletcher 'bumpgate'- that story is pretty absurd to me).

The Panthers started the second half freezing cold and never recovered. Another long and painful scoring drought buried us (yes, we have actually suffered multiple 8+ minute long scoring droughts this season.... and this from a team of 'shooters'(!)). When will those percentages rise? Surely, it must be obvious that when we shoot better we win games. Defense wins championships, yes, but not without a complimentary offense that puts points on the board.

But the news of the game happened just off the court near the scorer's table. Coach Jeter was involved in a minor 'altercation' (or assault as the Green Bay media would have us believe) with a taunt-happy Ramon Fletcher near the end of the game. Jeter reportedly bumped into Fletcher as the Phoenix player was harassing the Panther bench and told the player to 'cut it out'.

Now, one can argue that there should be no physical contact between coaches and players and that Jeter was out of line (many of the most frustrated Panther fans I know are convinced that this was a classless act and that Jeter should have been reprimanded). but this incident was hardly a Pistons-Pacers'ish scene of drama.

To summarize, here are the 'bitter', 'malicious' post-game quotes from both parties involved:

"It was just competitive talk," Fletcher said of his exchange with Jeter.
"Nothing too big. I wasn't going at it with him, nothing like that. We shook and
hugged after the game. Nothing big. He just said, 'I have to deal with you for
the next year and you're going to be a pain for the next year.' He said just
keep getting better."

Said Jeter, "I have a lot of respect for Rahmon. He's one
of the best players in our league. I've got nothing bad to say about Rahmon.
He's very talented and he's showed toughness this year."

Sound like two people who almost got into a fight? It was an in-the-moment competitive venting of frustration. Noone was hurt- and other than the Green Bay announcers, noone even seemed to notice when it occured (I was viewing the game on with mute on (could not stomach the UW-Green Bay announcers) and saw nothing "shocking" occur near the benches as the game wound down).

Much ado about nil- I can't believe I even spent so much time commenting on it just now- I guess just to reveal how warped some Green Bay fans (and some of our own, disillusioned (for good reason) fans) have become. The reality is that disaffected (disenfranchised? lol) Panther fans have run out of excuses and are desperately looking for a scapegoat. The buck stops with Coach Jeter. When we win- he gets all the credit (and he can do no wrong!).

When we lose- guess what? Same deal- he get all the blame (and deservedly so). Part of this blame game can spill over into other (baseless) accusations which are only made to bolster an already obvious argument (we are not playing good basketball this season and something needs to change for us to get better).

I turned off the game with seconds remaining and no chance of a comeback, looked up at the ceiling, and thanked God that I had a date with a very nice girl later that night. It would have otherwise been a very long and depressing night thinking about how unsuccessful we have been this season (and how confident (almost arrogant!) we were coming in).

Frustration happens. It's just unfortunate that we seem to have experienced more than our fair share since the last time we were a good team back in early '06. Well at least we weren't swept by pmck as was the case last season! Until next year..

Another road challenge and opportunity to silence the doubters, and..... another failure. It's painful to realize we are getting pretty used to this. If our current .504 season winning percentage holds steady for these remaining 7 games, we will likely win 4 of them (Youngstown State, Cleveland State, UIC, and Loyola are my best guess if I had to pick).

That puts us at 17-14. Sound familiar? That's because that was our record last season.. So if that is the end result, and we win less than 2 games in the Horizon League Tourney, the program will have made zero progress since last year.

From 22-9... to 9-22, to 12-14, to 17-14... things seemed to be trending almost certainly toward that 20-win badge of honor. However, now, a 4-5 game winning streak and decent (read- HL Semifinal appearance at the minimum) conference tournament showing is about all that could allow that to happen.

This team has had more than it's share of mulligans. There was a time when losses were still manageable and the season's course was still "correctable". Unfortunately that time is nearing it's end if it is not over already.

The Panthers face another tough road challenge tonight at 6pm as they go up against Brad Brownell's Wright State Raiders at the Nutter Center. The game will be televised on TWC Sports Channel 32 with Adrian Tigert and Daron Sutton calling the action.

I know those of us with hope still left in our hearts for this team and this program are struggling to dig deep and find some kind of optimism. It's tough and it has looked especially ugly lately, but maybe tonight we'll be given a brief respite from the negative winds of defeat and see the Panther team that we envisioned going in to this season.

With our two games against Butler in the books, who says these Milwaukee Panthers can't run the table, or at least reel off 5-6 wins in the 7 remaining contests and win back the support of a fan base who doesn't know what to make of this current state of the union in Pantherland?

Our beloved Milwaukee Panthers badly need to erase that skepticism and doubt and make up our minds for us- convince us that Milwaukee is back and headed for greener pastures in the foreseeable future. Just a glimmer of hope that doesn't fade as quickly as it appears.... That is all we ask.