Free throw shooting once again reared its ugly head. So did a swiss cheese defense that allowed Ronald Nored multiple easy drives to the basket.
But the Panthers will take what they can get and turn it into a positive. Holding the Butler Bulldogs to just 17 second-half points, the Milwaukee Panthers improved to 14-8 overall and 7-3 in the Horizon League, 53-42.
Despite hitting bottom by shooting 6-for-18 from the free throw line, the Panthers gutted out the victory by playing stiff defense at the end of the game. A notable performance at the end came from Ryan Haggerty, who stuffed home the dagger dunk but also won a HUGE loose ball on the other end to preserve the lead for another possession.
Milwaukee held the Bulldogs to 28.1% shooting on the night, including 1-of-16 from long range. Strong defense came back, as Milwaukee gave up very few open shots, especially along the perimeter.
It was truly a team effort, as the difference between the fifth highest scorer and highest was a mere five points. James Haarsma went 6-for-9 from the floor and scored 12 points, Ryan Allen scored 11 on 4-of-8 shooting, Paris Gulley had nine, and Tony Meier and Kyle Kelm each scored seven.
It was good to see Gulley get open shots – they weren’t falling, and he wasn’t shooting as much from the perimeter as he should, but he made big shots. The three-pointer to put Milwaukee up six was the biggest shot of the game.
Also pleasing to Milwaukee fans was the somewhat return of Tony Meier. He scored seven points but hit two of his three attempts beyond the arc. Meier also pulled down eight rebounds, playing Andrew Smith strong down low. Kyle Kelm also had his best game in awhile, adding nine rebounds to his docket.
Kaylon Williams had a tough night shooting the ball, but again proved why he is the best point guard in the Horizon League by dishing out 11 assists and putting up the best +/- score (14) of any player on the floor. The point is, Kaylon Williams is a winner, and he played like one tonight despite not having the best night from the floor.
Elliott Kampen’s three-pointer was the lone bomb that Butler dropped all night. It was significant, keeping Butler in the game by pulling them within 37-33, but it wasn’t enough.
Shortly after coming into the game with about seven minutes remaining, Andrew Smith scored on a tip-in off a Khyle Marshall miss to bring the score to 41-38 Milwaukee. That would be the closest Butler would get the rest of the night, as the Panthers clamped down on defense, only allowing four more points from Butler in the final six minutes of the game.
Milwaukee (14-8, 7-3 HL) faces Valparaiso (14-8, 7-3 HL) in a battle of teams with identical records on Saturday at 1 p.m. The game is at the U.S. Cellular Arena.