Longwood dispatches Milwaukee with 1-2 inside/out punches from Zapala, Napper

Aaron Franklin has emerged as a competent big man, but big men and guards need offensive structure

Well it has been a frustrating season so far, Panther fans.

Your Milwaukee Panthers (4-7, 0-1) regressed back to the losing column after a win over UC Davis that many of us hoped would jump-start the team the same way Josh Thomas' OT buzzer beater win over the Aggies did last season.

Milwaukee featured a new starting lineup including Pratt, Franklin and Davis and sans Jamison and Pullian. The spark that this starting-5 shakeup provided dissipating relatively quickly though, and sadly seemed to morph into (or deepen) animosity amongst the team.

After a blazing hot start that saw the Panthers shooting 50%/50%/50% from FG/3PT/FT (free throws not good but FG and 3PT were fire) and even maintaining a small lead for some of the first half, things, (as they so often do this season)- fell apart.

Longwood had two players that absolutely destroyed us and exposed our lack of an effective defense and offense. Walyn Napper and Szymon Zapala both scored 24 points. Zapala at times looked like he was putting on a show for a Harlem Globetrotters exhibition- not competing against a DI team doing their best job to protect their home court. 24 points (and this after Ty Johnson and Elijah Pepper dropped 28 apiece on us).

Their buckets were too easy last night. But then again we have become an easy opponent to face.

51.7%  /  53.8%  /  57.9%

41.3%  /  30.8%  /  70.0%

The game was hard-fought and the Panthers did seem to pass the ball better. But if there is no offensive structure- no effective picks set or bodies being moved and aligned in ways that open and close shot opportunities- it doesn't matter how many times we pass the ball, we'll still be left with bad shots.

We had some open looks last night that we didn't connect on, to be sure. But we had a lot more contested 3 balls that should never have been shot. College basketball cannot be a game of pickup; well-disciplined teams will exploit that lack of seriousness and beat us every time.

Longwood pushed the lead out to 18 with just 5 minutes left and would go on cruising to victory, 80-67. Milwaukee has a 9 day break before facing Chattanooga at Panther Arena on 12/22 at 1pm. This next game presents another opportunity to turn things around. But it also presents a challenge that we may be woefully unprepared to meet.

Since 2007, the crowds at Panther Arena have gone from an average of ~4,500 to an average of ~3,500 to an average of ~2,500 to an average of just ~1,200 (average since 2018) to.... the 500 souls who braved the cold to watch this most recent Panther loss. 500 people for a major midwestern city's public DI hometown team with 150,000 alumni living within a 30 minute drive of Panther Arena is Grade-A1 embarrassing. No way to spin it.

People want to see winners. We have nothing to blame but our own futility for the growing silence and emptiness that has slowly been enveloping the Arena for the past 15 years.

We've had a couple seasons since the NCAA Tourney Second Round exit of 2006 ('10-'11, '13-'14, '15-'16, '21-'22) that provided a burst of late-season excitement, only to fail to capitalize on the success and revert back to a low-major attitude and altitude the following season.

Where do we go from here?

The team is clearly split along 3 lines or 3 groups of players:

(1) Players from last season and prior (Angelo Stuart, Markeith Browning, BJ Freeman, Elijah Jamison, Kentrell Pullian, Zach Howell, etc.)

(2) Transfers who are playing their first season in Milwaukee (Erik Pratt, Faizon Fields, Aaron Franklin, Langston Wilson, Learic Davis, etc.) 

(3) Freshman newcomers who just want to play on a winning team (Murchison, Riek, Polovic)


Figuring out how to bring together groups 1 and 2 is of paramount importance. The third group is the most receptive to learning and growing and being a TEAM- don't worry about them. They will do what they need to play with the first two groups.

The Panther veterans of last season and the Panthers that transferred and are playing in their first season in Milwaukee need to figure it out and bury whatever hatchets are destroying our comradery. Watching our opponents (esp. last night) verbally communicate and support each other one can see that the differences between us and a healthy functioning DI team are staggering.

While we all want BJ Freeman back in the lineup- I want to make it abundantly clear that our problems run way deeper than the absence of one player.

'Gotta figure it out- pronto. Or else it'll just be a long, quiet '23-'24 Panther Basketball season. Very much at odds with what we expected from this team.

go panthers  
stack good days.