Icing the Penguins

There’s no room for error.

That’s the mantra of the Milwaukee Panthers from today until the end of the season.  It’s time for the Milwaukee Panthers to nut up or shut up.

Damian Eargle's ability to alter shots, not just block them, is what makes him deadly.

Last go-round with Youngstown State, Kaylon Williams missed a go-ahead three-pointer and Tony Meier’s second chance opportunity was blocked by Damian Eargle, giving the Penguins a 68-66 victory over Milwaukee in Youngstown on ESPN3.

That game was a tale of two halves – mainly, the first half that featured Blake Allen not guarded by Ryan Allen, and the second half that did.  Allen put the Penguins up big at halftime, and despite being shut down in the second half, other Penguins rallied and got the victory.

Tonight, it’s going to be all about making shots and taking care of the ball so the team can hoist up more of them.  Milwaukee’s offense this season, apart from a few games, is best described as “anemic.”  It has been compounded by the mass attrition due to injury that I mentioned Sunday, but it’s basically all based around the fact that the players we put on the court have been unable to make the runs needed to put winnable games away, or get back into games that got away from them.

Blake Allen had a much harder time shooting over Ryan Allen than Tony Meier.

At Cleveland State, the Panthers were only down eight at halftime by some miracle, and if they had the offense going, might have gotten back into it.  An offensive show has failed to put away teams, and because of the Hack-a-Panther defense’s unfortunate effectiveness, the Panthers need to score a lot more away from the charity stripe to mitigate their problems at the line.

The key to this game will be to take it right at their inside players.  Damian Eargle is an all-conference level performer, but he won’t be able to guard both James Haarsma and Kyle Kelm.  Kelm is too long and skilled for him to be able to effectively guard, and Haarsma is too headstrong and assertive for him to pile up the blocks.  They can pound it inside and force Eargle to do acrobatics to block and alter shots without drawing fouls.  Milwaukee needs to get back to taking high percentage shots, and if they can get Eargle in foul trouble, they’ll have a field day inside.

When I say high percentage shots, that means taking solely three-pointers if your name is Paris Gulley or Tony Meier.  Both players have proven that they are much better shooters from 21 feet away then they are inside – Gulley’s floaters particularly draw the same kind of swooping feeling you get when you miss a step going downstairs.

All in all, it’s going to be a difficult game if the Panthers allow Youngstown State to force a lot of turnovers and get up early.  Both teams have lived and died by the three, and unfortunately for Milwaukee they are 267th in the nation at shooting beyond the arc.

Should the Panthers come out angry – and I would, considering the Penguins are the team that knocked them off the top 3PT defense pedestal – on the defensive end, look for a stiff defense on the perimeter.  If they don’t come out angry, and allow the ‘Guins to make the extra pass that nets them the open three-pointers they’re looking for, then it could wind up being a long night at the Cell.

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