VBJ leads the way as Milwaukee fells Oakland in shocking Horizon upset

The thrill of victory returned to Milwaukee last night (credit: Milwaukee Ahthletics)

It wasn't PBJ but rather VBJ who was the hero of Thursday night's massive upset of Oakland downtown at Panther Arena. Vin Baker Jr. (16pts, 7reb, 2blk) led the way for the Panthers in this contest, what would prove to be much more competitive than most expected. Milwaukee (8 point underdogs) put on a great display of basketball tonight. Shooting 41.2% from 3pt and 54% overall will do that.

Milwaukee got into transition where they seem to feel most comfortable and made hay with many blocks and steals (we had a whopping 10blk) to quick turnaround baskets. Our offense was in control for once, and we maintained control again and again, despite very few officiating calls going our way. The Panthers comfortably controlled the lead virtually all 40 minutes- against an Oakland team who is a very good team, even if last night wasn't their A-game (OU shot a frigid 25% from 3pt and 31.3% overall and were outrebounded by the Panthers 43-35).

Lathon has been playing much better in recent games and his quickness on defense was a huge advantage last night (credit: Dave Kallmann / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

The greatest part about last night's win is that it wasn't only our usual leading scorers and rainmakers who did the most of our damage- it was a shooting star in Vin Baker Jr and a much-improved (if not steady-handed yet) Jordan Lathon and Tafari Simms.

Props to not only VBJ for really amping it up lately but also the coaching staff for a renewed focus: they obviously prepared the team well to put us in a position to win like we did. It's actually pretty incredible that we won this game so handily. And we were able to do it without relying too much on Dree (10pts) and JT (22pts, 6 reb).

Moses Bol played well in the post grabbing an important 5 rebounds. Bol may be slow but his presence and length alone take up so much space that they limit what opposing players can even begin to try doing. In that respect I see his value more now than I did before last night. I do still wish Samba Kane would return! Kane looked very experienced in the limited time we did see him play. And Kane is still out. As is Browning. As is Baldwin Jr... 😐 Still no updates from the team or AD.

Tafari Simms shot 3-4 from 3, including 2 in the 2nd half that re-asserted the lead
(credit: Dave Kallmann / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

But I digress- Tafari Simms poured in a couple dagger triples in the second half and was 3-4 from 3pt. Milwaukee did not break despite OU bending our advantage several times. After a Lathon steal and put back (4 points in ~ 5 seconds), I had a feeling this one was going to go our way.

With just 8 minutes left, Jordan Lathon stole an inbound- again- and converted it into a smooth putback basket and that in itself, was a great metaphor for the effort last night: unexpected, seemingly effortless and altogether oh-so-welcomed in spite of all the troubles leading up to these recent 2 (very impressive) Horizon victories.

Milwaukee ends this current homestand versus Detroit this Saturday afternoon at 2pm CST. Be down at Panther Arena or watch on ESPN+. The Detroit game, like this Oakland upset, should be a far better battle than the one we saw in the first first matchup. I dunno what happened in recent weeks but this team is finally clicking; they seem to believe in themselves a lot more than us fans. And to that I say: let 'er rip.

There is yet adequate time for the conference standings to shift. We've all of February to play. One thing is becoming (a bit) clear(er): Milwaukee is not giving up(?)

VBJ is emerging and asserting himself as the Postman Milwaukee has been lacking all season (credit: Dave Kallmann / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Savor this, what was easily the best win of the season. Many Panther fans are wrestling with the belief that we may turn around our season after knocking off the King like this- and how effortlessly. I'm definately in that camp; I want to eat so much crow pie.

If we keep winning, fans like me will keep changing their tune ☝💥💫 and join in the march to the sweet music of victory. I am still troubled by the bigger picture and long-term issues facing the Milwaukee Athletic Department and the MBB program specifically. For now however, how could any among us not invest in a once-in-a-lifetime comeback story?

And if PBJ | Kane | Browning return next month? Look out, Horizon League.

This sudden and unexpected wave of positivity we are riding has more potential to excite (or re-deflate 😭) the Milwaukee fan base even more than the PBJ comittment that once upon a time seemed like our protective talisman. But this event (ongoing- 2 games down, XX to go..) is real and happening right now across the Midwest on Horizon League hardwood courts that seem to be getting a step friendlier to the Panthers with each incremental degree advanced in this attempt at a season 180°.

Stack 'em and rack 'em, Milwaukee.

PS: Until is said otherwise, I'll continue to believe and expect: PBJ will return, probably in February. That might really push us toward a winning season and a fully flared 180° turn.

go panthers
press on.