UWM Obliterates UNO, Improves to 9-3 Ahead of Cross-Town Contest @ MU

Well, Nebraska-Omaha, welcome to Division I, I guess. Though the Mavericks beat Northern Illinois (as did we) and played against Michigan State (as did we), your Milwaukee Panthers were clearly- far and away- the better team this past Saturday night at the on-campus Klotsche Center.

The Panthers got it started from the get-go and did not let up until the regulation time buzzer sounded.

Looking at the ESPN Game Flow (point-tracker throughout the game), one can clearly see that this one was all but finished with about 1:38 in the first half (we were up by 30pts, 48-18 at that point). Granted UNO is a provisional D-I team, new to the block, so to speak and the fact that most of us expected a pretty big win- I don't think anyone predicted that we'd play as lights out as we did.

From the starting 5 to the end of the bench, Milwaukee (9-3 (2-0)) put on a Harlem Globetrotters event of a win for the small but packed crowd of 2,446. None of our starters had to play more than 24 minutes and on average our first 5 played about 20 minutes each (sounds right considering the half-time score I just mentioned, right?).

Tony Meier led the way with 19pts on 5-12 from 3pt and 7rbs. James Haarsma had a quiet night statistically but was every bit as important in this win as Tony and the others. Kaylon put up his usual stat line: 17pts, 6rbs, 8ast and just a single turnover. Paris Gulley poured in 12 on 4-5 from 3pt (once Gulley gets going consistently from game to game (let's hope it starts this Thursday)- watch out.

Our Achilles heel reared it's ugly head yet again (9-17 or 53%), but hey, if that's the biggest problem, I think most Panther fans will take it. But those free throws... Gotta get up to a level of making at least 65% a game or so, or it will come back to bite us as bad or worse than it did in the game vs. Wisconsin.

One of the highlights of the night, was after an off-the-backboard block by Demetrius Harris on a Maverick FG attempt that bounced about 30 feet away from the hoop, Shaq Boga picked up and carried the ball down the court and lobbed up one of the sweetest Panther-to-Panther-alley-oop jams I have seen since 2006 to Ryan Allen (this team can jump and score with authority).

86-60 was your final here. The most amazing part was that, for the first time in my 5 years of attending every Panther home game, I saw many Panther fans exiting the game with several minutes left in the second half- and not for the usual reason! We actually blew the game so wide open our own fans got board with satisfaction! Now that is a stunning turnaround from the Western Michigan "problem" we encountered last season.

It was great to get the bench a ton of quality minutes- and they did not even come close to letting UNO back in the game. Shaq Boga (6pts, 7ast, 4stl and just two TOs) seems to be slowly but surely shaking off his new-to-D-I jitters and showing us flashes of what he is going to be capable of in a Milwaukee uniform.

Mitch Roelke and Evan Richard added 6 points apiece to top off our awesome bench effort. Very, very solid effort by the next 5-8 up... I think those minutes will prove very valuable down the stretch when we will need to count on 1-2-3 or more of them to help us win when the game is on the line.

So after 12 games, Milwaukee has already collected 9 wins. That's a good start by any measure, but wins over the next four road games (@Marquette, @Western Michigan, @Valpo, @Butler) are not going to be easy. That's not to say we can't win each and every one. We've had a chance throughout at least the first 30 minutes in all of our losses except the Northern Iowa game (UNI (esp. Jake Koch) was just flat-out nails that night).

Let's put our best game on the floor and see where the chips fall. But make no mistake- we can win this game.

We have a shot. And pssssst, 'we can shoot. That, combined with the expected return of sophomore paint-beast Kyle Kelm and our stifling Milwaukee Defense, could hold the key to a big "road" victory.

We can talk about respect and how the Journal-Sentinel and local anti-everything ranting yahoo Dave Begel of OMC treats Milwaukee Panther Athletics as a joke and how J-S Sports gives Panther Hoops less coverage than prep high school basketball teams 100 miles away, but that's for another conversation...

Right now, just win. 9-3 is nice, but nothing to beat your chest about. 10-3 would certainly be a different story with this tough non-con schedule we are battling through.... But one win (or loss) does not a season make.

We just need to treat each game like it's a sudden-death tournament test. If we utilize our experience, depth, talent, athleticism, renewed sense of urgency on defense (and make- those- free throws!)..... very good things could be building for us on the Horizon.

But I have to come clean for those who haven't read this blog in years past.. All this "just-win", being said, I won't deny that this game is a whole lot more than "just another tough road non-con game" to many die-hard Panther fans and other UWM alum and students.

And imagine the implications for the team. It would be the biggest kind of mid-season confidence boost possible to come out of Thursday with a victory. You cannot assign a number or measure confidence-laden momentum, but it is a very real thing as we showed in our amazing '10-'11 season-ending streak. But we will have to get past and/or shut-down DJO for any kind of upset to even get off the ground.

This is modern hoops warfare right here, and we have yet to show our cross-town neighbor that we can hang with them in their own gym. We can (and I think we will), but it will take a lot of Milwaukee cheering to make the underdogs feel right at home.

This particular "road" game is being played across the street and in the city that our jerseys represent, know? Hopefully we will have a sizable sea of black and gold Milwaukee Panther garb covering the Bradley Center's upper-deck cheap seats Thursday.

The BC could become a very unfriendly echo chamber of alarmingly loud, long-buried and finally audible UWM pride to the ears of the Eagle faithful- if our team can just assert what they already know they have and have shown they can do- and hold the #10-ranked team in the country in check and then some. Make it a good game, but aim even higher the Golden Eagles expect.

Make it good enough.... and we'll be seeing some pretty forlorn MU fans looking up at us and our entire program, if only for a passing, but unforgettable moment. Crazier things have happened in the history of college hoops- don't count us out before the shots have even begun to fly.