Pounce Bounces Back to .500, Panthers def. Niagara 90-73

How sweet it is to see a game like we were expecting for this season. Tonight ='d a blowout, and a well-rounded victory. Your Milwaukee Panthers (2-2, 0-0) came into Niagara the (hardly fortunate) "runner-up" of the Portland, OR Athletes in Action early season tournament and didn't seem to mesh with the perception a lot of Panther fans had coming off of the Italy trip and exhibition games.

After getting straight pummeled in the tournament opener, our efforts against FAU and UC Davis were incremental improvements- but meager ones. There was something sorely lacking from every one of our games out there....


And especially after beginning the fourth game in six days, criss-crossing the nation in the process, you couldn't really see it in the opening few minutes of this one...  But as soon as the game got about 7 minutes under way you could just tell that this one was going to be better for us.

That sometimes elusive but intoxicating passion (for the game, for the school and [most importantly] for themselves) was there as clear as day when the Panthers started to build up 12-14-17 point leads as early as the 10 minute mark of the first half.

Niagara played very poor defense throughout (we did too, but only in the first half) seemingly still trying work out their coverage sets as Panther guard after Panther guard (mostly Tone and Tony) got wide open on the perimeter for some high-percentage 3 balls.

Milwaukee struggled to assert a serious low post presence in the first half, but corrected things in a big way in the final 20 minutes. The Panthers also corrected that free throw shooting bug significantly in this game (16-26 for 62%) and shot 42% and 49% from the perimeter and field overall, respectively. It was on like Donkey Kong tonight, folks.

Tony Meier may just break out into a (not just "good" but) fearsome Horizon League baller

Though we went into half with just a four point lead, that ballooned early in the second half as our guys caught fire and Niagara's hot shooting faded. Cautious optimism soon became vainglorious bricked dunk attempts.... Why can't we finish?!!! All that matters is the win. The Panthers dribbled out the final 28 seconds to finish up the big road-trip-concluding win, 90-73.

Tone got off to a hot start and only continued to "boyle" (sorry, lol- had to) as the night went on. He torched the Purple Eagles for a career-high 27 points, 3 assists and 2 steals. His outside shot is a huge momentum shifter when it's on. Two seasons ago he had to carry the load. This season he just has to compliment it. And man, did he provide us with some offensive spark tonight. His shot is raining as true as ever.

Ant is the man. He just needs to remind himself once in a while. Anthony Hill was foul-ishly absent in the post in the first 20 minutes, but turned it around after the half and rolled to 12 points, 8 boards, and 4 assists.. Once he gets his man sized up and his post moves adjusted to the officiating crew's liking, he obliterates his defender.

It's too bad that it seems to take him much of the first half until he finds that rythym.. which makes you wonder how much more dominate he could be.. I guess it all goes back to fouls (and as we know all too well, those are often beyond anyone but the zebras' control).

Kaylon Williams (7rbs, 5ast, 2stl) was the glue man, holding everything together when it was uncertain in the early goings, 'adhering' to the game plan and getting this group over the top when it seemed we had topped out. I really think a guy like Kaylon understands how to make this talented Panther machine operate at it's full capacity. It will interesting to see just how much better K-Dub can get.

(a lot of the time) As Tone goes, so go the Panthers...

Can we say, welcome back Mega-Man?! Tony Meier (17pts, 6rbs, 2blk) also had the hot hand (3-7 from 3pt) for Milwaukee. Tony crashed the boards all night like the true vet he is and his two blocks were a big part of the reason our defense was so effective in the second half.

Ryan Allen (15pts, 3rbs) picked us up when we needed it, skying over the Niagara forwards for a couple crucial field goals. But those dunks Ryan, those dunks! (Allen failed to connect on at least two (almost poster-worthy) attempts in the game). 

Lonnie Boga got into foul trouble early on and never got on the floor enough follow up on his beastly UC Davis double-double. Ja'Rob McCallum (4pts, 3rbs, 2ast) didn't have his best night but put in some solid minutes. All around, we played like the incredibly deep team we knew we had underneath all of those early season jitters.

Now (back to earth Victor E. Panther) to put things in perspective this was Niagara's first game, Niagara lost many key veterans from last season, and (at least tonight) they seemed hardly as competitive as our Horizon League competition (except maybe Youngstown State). But a 17 point win is a 17 point win.

The score is 0-0 once again and we can still shape our own destiny.

Panther fans- get your you-know-what to the Cell. NIU means business Saturday.

So onward to Saturday we march. This was certainly the kind of exclamation point "W!" we were looking for coming into a nice five game home stretch. Saturday will showcase your Milwaukee Panthers against 2010 Sweet 16 participant Northern Iowa (also the Panthers, but we'll forget they try to copy our steez).

I can now confirm my suspicions that this is a very dangerous Panther basketball team. Can we make hay now that we are home and seem to have begun clicking as a team? Northern Iowa, then Western Michigan, then Marquette, then Youngstown St. and Cleveland St. to open up the Horizon League two game 'season before the season'.

This home stand could be The Big Let-Down (Panthers, please don't make that an MPT post title) or an unbelievable and fan-garnering home showcase... or (most likely) somewhere in between. Whatever the outcome might be- bear witness.