What a difference a couple of games can make.
Your Milwaukee Panthers cruised to victory in both of this past weekend's contests against IUPUI (Friday night) and Texas Southern (Sunday afternoon). My-oh-my how things have changed since my last post.
The team is figuring out its chemistry real fast and the results are showing up on the floor, on the scoreboard and in the box scores.
Anyone who saw Ryan Allen completely shutdown Alex Young (who was very limited due to foul woes from the get-go), or saw our huge rebound advantage in either of these past two games can agree with me when I say with confidence- our defense is better than it’s been in a long time (even going back to last season).
Granted the competition has not yet been at the level we will face in just two short days over in East Lansing… but you get the feeling that our guys are playing aggressive defense like never before and they are taking every opponents’ possession deadly seriously.
But another nice development is taking shape- our offense. You wouldn’t recognize the Panther shooters, slashers and postmen that went all in on Sunday if you had only seen the Parkside and/or SW Minn. State games. We are making strides, and just like most of us figured, the shooting percentages had to go up, and that they have.
The Panthers effectively flattened IUPUI in the first weekend contest, 62-49. The game was never really in question as the Jaguars shot an abysmal (looked like us in the first two games) 30% from the field while the Panthers bounced back quite a bit from Northern Illinois to shoot 44%.
NBA prospect Alex Young was limited to a measly 5pts and 3rbs in 15 minutes. He may have been a little too amped for the NBA scout audience and gottena bit too aggressive on the defensive side, but I witnessed it and honestly our Panthers made Alex Young look like just another average D-I player. We locked down the Jaguars in this game.
K-Dub continued his penchant for evenly distributed and ridiculously productive games (6pts, 8rbs, 8ast, 2stl). And Williams had 4 TO's, but that's because he is the man with the ball 60% of the time during our offensive possessions.......8ast to 4TOs? I'll take that 2-1 any day of the week. Just wait until the TOs decrease...
Kyle Kelm (14pts, 5rbs, 3stl) showed off a newly polished game with some seriously sick post moves. Haarsma only played 22 minutes and still managed 11pts and 7rbs. Evan Richard added 10pts and 4rbs to continue his impressive debut as a (redshirt) Freshman on this Panther squad. Ja'Rob McCallum played limited minutes in what will probably be his least productive game of the season... but then there was the Texas Southern game on Sunday..
I'll spare the details- in a word: annihilation. Panther fans were given a 40 minute display of what this team is capable of that Sunday afternoon. Texas Southern (who shot just 35% (note- better than IUPUI)) was just totally outplayed in every regard in this one. Our defense limited the Tigers to just 38 points (we toasted the Tigers, 73-38). I may stand corrected, but I believe that is the biggest Panther beatdown of an opposing team since we slaughtered Prarie View A&M in 2004.
So yeah, Sunday was pretty big for this program. Everyone got playing time and everyone went in with fury and the results were pretty stunning. I can't even rattle off all the great individual performances (though I will mention that the Shaq Boga to Demetrius Harris alley-oop jam near the end of the second half was the most entertaining moment), but you can see them here.
The best thing about being 4-0 right now, is that we are 4-0 while still lacking our best returning player in Tony Meier and without playing to our full potential (though I think we got pretty close against Texas Southern- esp. with that dead-eye 42% (11-26) 3pt percentage.
So we face some very long odds in this next match-up on the road against Michigan State. We will probably be 12 point dogs. But underdog status is a position we should relish. The Spartans are probably just happy to finally have a “decent” non-con opponent that they can steamroll over to prove they are still worthy of at least being considered in those "Next 15-20" always mentioned underneath the AP Top 25 "Status Roll".
I have unafraid hope for what could be the biggest victory in UWM history and a precursor to something much, much bigger... But like any other realistic fan, I will be content if we just play extremely competitive, keep it close and give ourselves a chance to win in the final minutes... keep MSU rightfully respectful of the Horizon League, know?
It will be a great test regardless of the outcome, but I won’t be thrilled with a close loss. And no Milwaukee fan or player or coach should. We absolutely can beat this Michigan State team- maybe not by 35 points- but we can win this.
The game is free on the radio via Bill Johnson and former Panther Jerard Ajami’s call on WISN 1130 or for $9.99 on btn.com. You have to subscribe to Michigaan State video for 1 month- bummer… but if you want to see the game and can’t drive to East Lansing, it’s not a bad price to pay to see what should be the best gauge of how well this 4-0 team really is in the early goings of ’11-’12.
I know the odds are long… but how many times has Vegas been wrong? How many upsets happen every single week in college basketball? Why not us?
BEAT MICHIGAN STATE!!