Live Chat for Butler

We’ll be running a live chat for today’s game against Butler.  Run time begins at 12:45 central.

PantherU Live Chat

If you are on Facebook, there is something new.  Instead of opening a new window, you can go to our Facebook page at PantherU and open the “Chat” tab to take part in it there.

Let’s go Panthers!

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Rivalry renewed at Hinkle #BeatButler #HLMBB

There is a real opportunity sitting in front of the Milwaukee Panthers.  Hinkle Fieldhouse, the site where Milwaukee kicked off its 12-game conference regular season winning streak, will be rocking on Saturday as the Butler Bulldogs try to get a leg up in the early Horizon League race.  They see what we see; at 3-1 and 2-1, the Panthers and Bulldogs are not separated by much and Butler will do no worse than tie the first tiebreaker (head to head) with the Panthers.  At 4-0 and 1-2, Milwaukee puts the Bulldogs in a big hole to climb out of and keeps the pressure on Cleveland State to keep pace.  The Vikings play Youngstown State at 1 p.m. today.

'AAAAAAAAAAAAh'm frustrating to watch!'

The chance to go 4-0 with two of the hardest games of the Horizon League schedule behind them is a big deal for the Panthers.  But the Bulldogs, as always, will try and thwart Milwaukee’s plans.

Sometimes it just takes a simple event for a team to really get it.  Maybe it’s a discussion among team members about what they want their season to be.  Perhaps a coach makes an impassioned speech and the players respond.  It could be playing time; when someone isn’t clicking with the rest of the team, they might need to take a step back to really help themselves grow as well as the team.

For Butler, the game has really changed since Chrishawn Hopkins has seen his playing time dwindling.  It isn’t a knock on Hopkins; it’s just a fact that the Bulldogs are better on both sides of the floor when he is out of the game.  Following the Valparaiso loss, Hopkins’ playing time has dwindled considerably, and the Bulldogs have gotten better.  In his first eight games, Hopkins played over ten minutes in all but one game.  Since, he has played less than ten in four of six games.  In games where Hopkins plays less than five minutes, the Bulldogs are 3-0 against Stanford, Purdue and Green Bay.  If he plays more than five, the Dawgs are 4-7.

The Bulldogs are significantly better with this guy on the bench.

Beyond Hopkins, the Bulldogs are still up and down when shooting the ball.  Their shooting percentage hit a recent high of 46.4% against Stanford (they eclipsed that plateau in the opener against Evansville and against Oakland City), but they haven’t been shooting like the normal Butler team shoots.  Missing players like Zach Hahn, Shelvin Mack, and Matt Howard has done two things. First, taking away those good shooters automatically lowers your percentages.  Second, the void of those players, specifically Mack and Howard, means that defenses haven’t had to commit more than the normal attention to any one player, so while Chase Stigall had much more free reign to take open shots last season, he’s not getting those open shots because defenses aren’t sagging off him in an attempt to stop pros that have now cycled out of the program.

The Bulldogs rely heavily on Andrew Smith to be a playmaker, and they’ve gotten a mixed bag. Some games he’s flourished, like he’s done against Evansville, Chattanooga, and Oakland City.  Other times, he is a complete non-factor, as you can see in games like Valpo, Ball State and Gonzaga.  But usually, you’re going to get the same kind of stats he put up last year, because in a lot of ways he’s just a guy.  Thrust into the spotlight, he’s getting the same production he got when he was the fourth option offensively.

Someday he'll be a star, but Marshall hasn't the skill or defensive ability to lead quite yet.

A big disappointment, at least from my end because I loved watching him in the tournament last year, has been Khyle Marshall.  His production has been steady (9.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg) and he’s more efficient (55.2% FG, 33% 3PT, 55.7% eFG), but he hasn’t really taken the reigns like I expected out of him.  Marshall is a wonderful athlete with a great upside, but like any player with upside that means he still has a ways to go.  The sophomore still lacks the skills that will put him over the top in the future and make him an All-League candidate.  The other thing about Marshall is that he’s struggled to defend this season, which has put the Bulldogs in a tight spot.

Look for Milwaukee to take advantage of Butler’s weaker interior by taking it right at Smith.  If they can take the seven-footer out of the game, then they can really attack the inside and win the game that way.  Playing an inside-out game threatens their stiff defense and stretches them out; this is why it pays to have even your big forwards shooting the three-ball, but I suspect James Haarsma will get most of his points in the paint.

I don’t know who is going to be the X-Factor to help the Black and Gold win.  It could be anybody – Meier, Williams, Allen, Haarsma, Kelm, Richard, or Gulley – all have done it for the Panthers when others struggle.  That’s what makes this team so good. By having a bunch of players who can play very well on any given night, the Panthers are a very difficult team for which to prepare; it’s like seven different kinds of smoke.

Making it count

At one point late in the second half, Kaylon Williams had enough.  Time to take over.

And take over he did.  Scoring most of his ten points in the second half, Williams slashed to the basket on three possessions for easy buckets, then hit the biggest shot of all, giving Milwaukee a 57-55 victory over Valparaiso at the ARC.

With 45 seconds remaining on the clock, Williams calmly shot the go-ahead three-pointer, got a friendly bounce from a usually unforgiving ARC rim, and went in.  It was very reminiscent of the three hit by Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor earlier this month at the Arena in Milwaukee.

Broekhoff scored 18 points and pulled down 12 rebounds against Milwaukee on Thursday night (Photo from NWI Times)

Williams ended up one rebound and three assists short of the triple-double, and somehow collected seven assists while I only counted four in the replay.  There were a couple mistakes – after all, with the ball in your hands that much mistakes do happen – but overall Williams and Milwaukee did what they have done for much of the season – overcome adversity in a hostile environment and pull out the victory.

It was by no means the best game for Milwaukee – the free throw woes returned, and a failure to box out led directly to six points from Ryan Broekhoff – but the grit and determination of this team won out, the real reason they are 10-4 and 3-0 in the Horizon League.

Ryan Broekhoff had 18 points on 6-of-13 shooting but only really got going once Ryan Allen was put on the bench with his second foul in the first half and drew different defenders in the second.  Allen frustrated the senior wing, but Broekhoff found success inside the arc.  Against Allen on the perimeter, Broekhoff was 1-of-6 from beyond the arc.

Erik Buggs had a lot of success driving the lane.

The real game changers for Valparaiso were Kevin Van Wijk and Erik Buggs.  The junior post was 5-of-11 from the field and had some pretty great battles on the block with James Haarsma.  Buggs used impressive speed to get past Paris Gulley and other defenders.  All in all, Buggs did a wonderful job driving the lane and either putting up a shot or finding the open man under the hoop.

Milwaukee got a great shooting performance from Tony Meier.  The senior forward bounced back from an 0-10 performance by shooting 5-for-8 from three and 6-for-9 overall.  Meier also played stout defense on Van Wijk on the second half while Kyle Kelm was sitting with foul trouble.

Kaylon Williams' go-ahead three sent the Crusaders into stunned silence and Milwaukee into big cheers.

Milwaukee overcame many obstacles, not the least of which was a raucous crowd of 2,644 that got extremely loud in the final five minutes of the contest.

Is it just me, or has Valpo become a more important rival than Green Bay?  It is obvious that Butler is our conference archrival, but since Valpo joined the conference, the series has been 6-4 in favor of the Panthers, but most of the games have come down to the wire.  It was evident last night that this game means a lot not only to the fans in the stands but the players on the court; they certainly get up for us more than other teams, as evidenced by Broekhoff’s quotes in the preview story at the NWI Times yesterday.  A large chunk of Valpo’s student body comes from Milwaukee and they have a bigger alumni base in Milwaukee than pretty much every Horizon League opponent.  It’s a short, easy road trip that about 50 Milwaukee fans made last night and many Valpo fans will make later this season.  It’s not an angry rivalry, at least from our side – I think Green Bay’s fan base is a lot more bitter with us – but to me, this is what college basketball is all about – strong, regional rivals who battle it out in big games with a lot on the line.

What was on the line last night was first place, and Milwaukee prevailed to go to 3-0 and drop the Crusaders to 1-1.  A victory tomorrow would be a tremendous leg up for the Panthers in the two hardest road games for Milwaukee in recent memory (along with Wright State and Green Bay).

Off kilter

Sometimes the shots just don’t go your way.

In forty minutes of basketball, the Milwaukee Panthers held one of the nation’s highest scoring basketball teams to just 64 points.  It was a game that was played better than the final score showed.  64-50 is what the box score reads, but this team was doing a lot of things right.

Buzz Williams got the maximum effort from his squad, led by Junior Cadougan with 15 points (AP Photo).

Milwaukee took 28 three-point shots.  About 20 of them were open shots that should have been canned; four were.  There’s the story of the basketball game, right there in front of everyone.  If Milwaukee shoots anywhere near its season average from three (35.1%), they win this game tonight. The shooting percentage would have made us 10-for-28, not 4-for-28 as the team actually shot.  That’s an 18-point swing.  I think 18 more points for Milwaukee might have made things a little closer.
It’s as simple as that.

Tony Meier was 0-10 from the floor on the night, nine of which came from outside the arc.  This isn’t the Tony Meier that we’re accustomed to seeing; his shots weren’t falling.  Hell, his shots sometimes didn’t even hit the rim – I counted four airballs from the senior forward.  But this is what I know about Tony Meier.  Nine times out of ten, he’s going to make four of ten field goals – his record speaks for itself.  While Marquette is no slouch defensively, they did not play Tony Meier perfectly.  His shot was off.  I got the feeling that if only he could get one to fall, it’s be like opening the flood gates.  That shot never fell.  You can’t fault a guy for not hitting his shots when most nights he gives you the points you need.  Everyone has off nights.  Pete Maravich had nights where he would score 10 points on 3-for-55 shooting.

Ryan Allen is getting better and better every game. The NBA might be in his future. (AP)

Kyle Kelm came back to play in the starting lineup, picked up two quick fouls and didn’t come back until the second half, where he wowed the crowd with a couple great athletic moves.  If he were 100%, I think we would have seen a lot more out of him.  At least he has another week to keep getting healthy!

For me, the real emerging player is Ryan Allen.  His defense on DJO and offensive game really showed how he’s improving even now.

Looking back at the game, Kaylon Williams got called for four turnovers when I only counted two.  They must have counted the missed hand-offs from James and Demetrius Harris as turnovers for Kaylon.  I thought he had a solid game overall; if that three hits near the end of the first half and we go up 28-27, we have all the momentum and the game could look a lot different.

Speaking of looking a lot different – who expected Junior Cadougan to lead Marquette in scoring?  He’s a talented guy, but Vander Blue and Darius Johnson-Odom would have gotten my money to lead MU before Cadougan.  It goes to show how well Blue and DJO were defended by Kaylon Williams and Ryan Allen.

Tony Meier and the Panthers were cold from the field, but they held one of the highest-scoring offenses in the country to just 64 points.

So here’s to the Panthers.  A wonderful defensive effort that led to us having an opportunity to win in the last five minutes, but slipping away due to an off-shooting night.  Am I disappointed that we didn’t win?  Absolutely.  But with all of its built in advantages – the Al McGuire Center to our Klotsche Arena shared with six other sports, the Bradley Center they have their pick of dates in to our U.S. Cellular Arena and our lower-class status to the Circus and Disney on Ice – Marquette was scarcely the better team tonight.

They’re lucky they caught the Panthers on an off-shooting night.  God help Valpo, the Black and Gold are coming in with a huge chip on their shoulder.

Wes Matthews weighs in

Just in case you needed more inspiration for the game tonight.

Milwaukee defense faces toughest test yet – #mubb #BeatMU #UWM

Throw out the 10-1 record, the ultra high-scoring offense, the blistering assist totals and the frustrating defense.  If there’s one thing I can point to and tell you “that’s why Marquette is a great team,” I only need one word.

Effort.

There is not a team in the country that plays 40 minutes of college basketball harder than the Marquette Golden Eagles.  Buzz Williams, the head coach and captain of the ship, demands extreme toughness and wall-to-wall effort.  He gets that and more from his Golden Eagles.

Marquette got to 10-0 this season before dropping a heartbreaker at LSU on Monday.  It was a difficult result to swallow, but that’s how it is sometimes, especially on the road.

Easily the most impressive victory for MU this season was a 61-54 victory over Wisconsin in Madison.  The Golden Eagles went into one of the hardest road atmospheres in the nation and beat the Badgers at their own game – a low-scoring, blow by blow possession-by-possession affair.

Don’t expect that tonight at the Bradley Center.  Both teams come in missing a starter – the Panthers expect Ja’Rob McCallum to be out at least through the new year and Marquette will re-evaluate Chris Otule’s condition on Monday – but the Panthers will be getting one back.  Kyle Kelm expects to play against Marquette, the team that pulled a scholarship offer during his junior year in high school after he broke his foot.

In Otule’s place, Davante Gardner has found himself ushered into the starting lineup.  The 6’8”, 290 lb. widebody is a real beater in the block – he uses his size to own the paint, draw fouls and put himself in better position to score.  He’s good from the line, too – the center is hitting 82% of his free throws this season.

Marquette’s team is all about running you into the ground.  What they lack in size, they make up for in sheer effort and speed.  At any time, a simple turnover can turn into two points on the other end very quickly.  Every one of their guards and Jae Crowder can drive the lane in the blink of an eye and come up with an easy layup.  It will be up to the Panthers to limit those transition opportunities that set up Marquette’s easy baskets.

There are two ways the Panthers can accomplish that task.  First and foremost, they need to take care of the ball.  Marquette is forcing 18 turnovers per game and 9.4 steals per game.  The Golden Eagles rely on a relentless, tough defense to force opponents into poor ball-handling situations and miscues.  They use trap defenses to get opponents to cough up the ball one way or another.

If Milwaukee can take care of the rock, the big thing they need to do to cut off the head of MU is get back quickly on defense.  Getting crisp, open shots are key in this game, because you want to make the highest percentage possible.  Too many defensive rebounds for Marquette can turn into 2-on-1’s on the other end and easy buckets for the blue and gold.  Milwaukee’s guards need to get back quickly to negate any numbers advantage the Golden Eagles might have in the transition game.

If MU can’t score in transition, they most definitely will try to get open shots with their speed.  They have a lot of ball hawks that hunt the open three-point shot, which may be difficult against the Panthers but won’t be if the guards can keep up.

All in all, the Golden Eagles are very talented, very quick and very smart.  Darius Johnson-Odom should be in the All-American conversation, Junior Cadougan is a more-than-capable point guard, and Vander Blue will have a height advantage on whoever guards him unless Milwaukee goes with a three-forward set.  Don’t expect that, though, because Kyle Kelm, Tony Meier or James Haarsma would have difficulty keeping up with Blue.

This is what you can expect.  Kyle Kelm, who should be playing tonight, should draw Davante Gardner on offense.  Kelm’s ability to shoot the three will open things up on the inside for James Haarsma to take a weaker Jae Crowder on the block, negating his speed advantage.  Crowder and Haarsma are two bull-headed beasts with a real mean streak, so don’t be surprised if they end up getting too physical for the referees to allow.

In no game this year has Milwaukee’s defensive prowess on the perimeter been tested as much as it will against Buzz Williams’ squad.  The Golden Eagles have great guards all over the court – Cadougan, DJO, Blue, Todd Mayo – they’re just a very deep team (ten players average over 10 mpg) that runs the floor with reckless abandon, puts in the maximum effort, and plays the game tough.

A victory over this team would instantly give major credibility to the Panthers’ at-large chances or, more importantly, seeding when they get into the dance by way of winning the Horizon League Tournament.

Here’s to a big, fat W on the Milwaukee side tonight.

Go Panthers!

@AnonymousEagle interviewed me

For a candid interview with me, check out the Anonymous Eagle blog for MU.

I may have not been quite so brash on a couple topics if I knew it was word for word, but I regret nothing here. To see the interview, read here:

http://www.anonymouseagle.com/2011/12/21/2653167/the-inquisition-prowling-milwaukee-with-pantheru