St. Thomas upends start to Milwaukee homestand

Wednesday's match was not to be the spark that lights a fire...

In the first evenly matched test of the young '22-'23 season, your Milwaukee Panthers (2-3, 0-0) fell short against the St. Thomas "Tommies" who are in their second year of Division 1. We saw former Panther Courtney Brown Jr. return and get some minutes. We also saw former Panther recruit Ben Nau who has a huge following in the stands but did not play much of a factor.

St. Thomas' best Wisconsin player Andrew Rhode along with Ahjani Lee and Ryan Miller did however, stymie Milwaukee on more than one occasion.

The Panthers began the game with yet another pair of turnovers. Things went from bad to worse very quickly just like last game. St. Thomas sank some fortuitous bank threes and shredded our defense enough in the first have to make all Panther fans in the 1,800 attendance nervous. I know I was.

This looked from early on to be a trap and an almost assured loss. We lost our mojo a bit since battling tough in Ames, Iowa. Playing this more equally matched foe highlighted the miles we have to go before we have a smooth operating effective offense that opponents fear.

The Milwaukee defense is there in spades. Our guys are conditioned and can wear down opponents with the up-tempo and in-your-face defensive style.

The offense just doesn't have the experience which brings the confidence which brings the swagger which intimidates foes. Until we get the offense the way the coaches know it should be, we are gonna see a lot more losses and a lot of close games.

And while the Milwaukee defense has been mostly all good- there are obvious gaps.

Heck 5'11" deceptively talented human cannonball Ryan Dufault side-stepped and whipsawed around several of the much more laterally-oriented Panther defenders and cut to the hoop like our defense was but a porous butter stick.

Milwaukee went on to lose, 76-72, and the "Tommies" left our building as if we don't have a home court advantage at all. 😡

The most mind blowing part about this loss is not the unfortunate call in a part of the game where anything not obviously flagrant is usually not called. It is the STATS. On paper it seems like this game was a win. We won the rebound battle (38-24) 🚚🚚🚚. We shot unconscious from 3pt (52.9%) 🔥🔥🔥🚒. We had 9 blocks to their 0.

We shot just about even from the field with 47.5% to the Tommies' 50.9%.

And yet we somehow never got close until the final seconds.

The difference was the free throws (St. Thomas 12-17 while Milwaukee was just 5-9). You could argue the game was called pretty strictly which works against our fast, physical Lundy-style of basketball.

After calling questionable fouls on both teams all game, a referee decided to insert himself into the end-game equation and call a charge when it wasn't quite obvious (and occurred with 2 seconds remaining). About that...-

At the end of the game, with just 2 seconds remaining, Justin Thomas drove to the goal and was fouled- but was called for a charge, effectively ending the game. Lundy was furious and let the refs know and was almost called for his second bench technical of the game.

We love the fire after having three very mild-mannered coaches since Bruce Pearl. But we have to be better than to put ourselves in that kind of a come-from-behind position in the first place. Cliche but true: gotta beat the opponent and the refs; gotta be and play good- like Kentucky good; like North Carolina good. If we get to a level higher than our leagues opponents we'll go far.

And although yes, we closed the Tommies lead to just 2 points in the final seconds, we were playing from behind by 10+ points virtually all game. Entertaining tilt, but it wasn't as close as the final score. Kudos to St. Thomas, in just their second year of DI they are already playing smart and getting decent wins. And their two Brookfield players alone brought more than a few hundred extra patrons to the Arena yesterday.

Must be nice to get acclimated to DI so quickly and to have Wisconsin recruits who bring families and friends who travel with the team.

One positive from tonight is the continued accuracy and post dominance of Oregon State transfer Ahmad Rand: he had 18pts and 8reb- on 9-9 shooting as well as more crowd-energizing rebounds-to-slams. To casual fans, just come out to see the show above the rim of Rand, Edwards, Freeman, VBJ, Johnson, etc.).

We didn't play great yesterday and we've got do better. Search around those souls and get back to the basics. I dunno. But not protecting the Panther castle won't make us winners again- we must protect that building.

It represents not just us, and the Uni and the city and all the fans and all of its history. It represents possibility. I hope this team sees the vision and makes it their (and our) reality.

Go get the next win, pronto. Up next is UC Davis Aggies in the first game of the Brew City Classic MTE event in Milwaukee which features three Panther games at the on-campus Klotsche Center.

  • Saturday: Milwaukee vs. UC Davis
  • Sunday: Milwaukee vs. Boston University
  • Monday: Milwaukee vs. Southwest Missouri State

This loss is a wakeup call. The lack of cohesion and passing on offense and reliance on bad 1-on-1 to contested chuck shots needs cleanup. No better practice than more DI game experience.

Let's clean it up. This team could play beautiful basketball- even fast paced- but the little things must be taken care of first.

go panthers
stack good days.