IUPUI gets handled embarrassingly and handily

The coaching staff of the Milwaukee Panthers deserves some credit. After several years of turnover and turmoil (preceding every current coach including Pat Baldwin)- they are making strides towards consistently successful basketball.

And it's fun to watch.

Two more big steps were made in a weekend pair of matches that saw Milwaukee best IUPUI in a big way (Saturday) and an even bigger way (Friday). Tafari Simms stepped up huge for the Panthers in Game 1 supported by the usual Panther attack (all who see minutes) while Jaylen Minet and Marcus Burk led IUPUI's attack in both contests.

Tafari Simms, Toronto native, poured in 33pts in Milwaukee's 1st victory over the Jaguars

1/8/2021 vs. IUPUI  | Milwaukee 94 IUPUI 70

Milwaukee (5-2 (4-1)) came to play Friday morning and wasted no time in showing fans how much they have been itching to play games again. We kind of expected that. What we fans did not quite expect was an offensive tour-de-force from a previously little-discussed Panther recruit that hails from Toronto, Canada: Tafari Simms.

No offense to the IUPUI Jaguars but Friday's game was not their best showing (and they know it). It was however, a breakout game for Simms, and an excellent to add to our '20-'21 collection.

Te'Jon Lucas quietly racked up 14pts and 8ast and Dre Gholston another 15pts. This is starting to be a bit of a trend with Gholston and Lucas leading our offense; but we also have Simms, JT, Coleman and others who can explode on any given night as well.

Lucas, who at times seems like he has played inconsistent, is actually rising quite a bit in 2 important NCAA D1 categories, Assist Rate (ARate) and Fouls Drawn per 40 minutes (FD/40)- those are national player rankings:

Lots of  basketball left but these are definitely good numbers for your PG

It went downhill for IUPUI pretty fast. What started out as a hot hand from distance for the Jaguars soon began to freeze. Jalen Minnet was 3-6 from 3pt but Marcus Burk wound up 1-8 and IUPUI as a team wound up a dismal 29.6% from 3pt. And Tafari kept on knocking down shot after shot en route to an historic day not just for him (career high of 32pts on 5-6 from 3pt and boosted by 6rbs) but for the Milwaukee Panther Basketball program (highest single game points 2016).

This was a relaxing, enjoyable, dare I say "stress-free" win to watch by our team. Our mistakes were few and far between- 19-24 (79.2%) FT; 31-59 (52.5%) FG; 13-23 (56.5%) from 3pt 😳.

Te'Jon effectively facilitated the ball and defended excellent in both wins; he's back (or never left)

With the exception of a sputtering first 6 minutes of the 2nd half which allowed the Jaguars to tie, Milwaukee completely controlled this game.

We outrebounded them and outhustled them to the point where the end result was not seriously in question after the 7:30 mark of the 2nd Half at which point the Panthers led 78-64 following a Simms 3. Milwaukee would cruise to the 94-70 victory behind Simms, Lucas, Gholston, Thomas and the bench (everyone but walk-on Nick Pappas scored).

1/9/2021 vs. IUPUI  | Milwaukee 71 IUPUI 63

While Friday's win was largely a breeze in the park, Saturday's rematch proved to be more of the junkyard venue variety, but a nub-ground fight that Milwaukee would eventually win via wearing down IUPUI with our relentless series of rotations. We knew our team/bench was deep Friday- but it was this past Saturday that our freshman and bench not named Tafari would really step up and steer the ship when we needed their poise.

As always Lucas (15pts, 5rbs, 4ast) and Gholston (14pts, 7rbs, 4stl) feasted. And the next men up are showing their readiness for this level more each game. Simms (another 6pts), Hancock (5pts) and Newby (5pts, 2rbs, 3ast) all proved key contributors in Game 2.

Eventually, Milwaukee asserted certain dominance down the stretch with Lucas, Coleman and then the bench and, believe or not Panther fans but our team is closing out games like we own the gym again. That is more refreshing than almost anything- playing ahead and staying ahead.

JT had a great game Friday, followed by 14pts, 7rbs, 3stl Saturday

And so it would be as the minutes wound down, the Jaguars were left with no recourse. Milwaukee cashed in the 'hack-em free throws to stay well ahead and secure the sweep, 71-63. Another W in the books.

Up next is Jon Coffman's Purdue-Ft. Wayne (PWF) Mastodons who just swept a UIC team that many thought would be a tough out in the Horizon this season. In his 9th season at PFW, Coffman's Mastodon teams are well known for an offense built around 3pt looks. In fact, PFW is currently 3rd in the nation shooting a scorching 42.4% from beyond the arc. PB and staff have to stop that or it'll be tough to win.

If we have any kind of perimeter defense, these Panthers can handle it. And we have shooters to match in Grant Coleman and others. In fact, (early, small sample but-) Dre Gholston is shooting .458 from 3pt good for 124th nationally. There is no reason that we can't rudely interrupt the Mastadon 3pt-bomb strategy (and drop a few 3pt bombs on 'em ourselves) for another sweep this upcoming weekend to keep the wins piling up.

Despite the early bumps in the road this season, a vibe of positivity seems to have returned- at least for now. The offense is clicking a lot more often and both offensive and defensive sets are clearly run, and cleanly executed.

If things continue to trend this way as we start to play better teams (an unexpected threat from league-leading Cleveland State and expected big challenge at Wright State are just around the corner..)- that positivity could burgeon into some much-needed Panther Madness for the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee Panther fans everywhere come March and the Horizon League TournKEY.

go panthers
the future is now.