Panthers catch heat, light up Ramblers

At one point in the second half the Klotsche Krazies, not happy with a call, started chanting “Take his whistle” at one of the referees. Had they known the result, they might have not been so hasty to jump on the officiating.

Milwaukee rode an 18-for-23 second half foul shooting spree to an eighteen-point victory over the Loyola Ramblers, 71-53.

Paris Gulley led the charge, shooting 13-for-16 from the charity stripe in the game and scoring 21 despite the Panthers’ shooting guard going a cold 0-for-5 from beyond the arc.

“Man it feels good to get the win,” head coach Rob Jeter said after the game.

It had been quite the stretch for Milwaukee, who hasn’t won since a January home game against Cleveland State. They weren’t going to let the sins of the second half betray them again.

“We just made sure that in the second half, we got the quality shots we wanted, got the ball in the post and tried to draw fouls and get to the line,” Jeter said after. It wasn’t just an offensive philosophy that worked for the Panthers.

JJ Panoske knocked seven shots off their course tonight, a school record in only his freshman season.

“He did a great job of helping out teammates. He may have had seven blocks, but he had about 12 or 13 altered shots,” Ryan Haggerty said after the game.

Milwaukee also got a big game out of Austin Arians, who had a big stretch where he slammed home two crowd-pleasing dunks and hit a big three to keep Loyola at arm’s length.

The first half wasn’t quite the offensive show for Milwaukee.

“We tried to be aggressive with attacking the press. We tried to see the floor and see the 45-degree angles. Sometimes we took some bad angles and created some turnovers, but overall I was pleased,” coach Jeter said of the team’s offense in the first half, when Loyola came out and started pressing immediately. “We’re going to have to prove that we can beat the press if we’re going to win some more games the rest of the way.”

Still, a 49-point second half was the deciding factor for Milwaukee, who improved to 2-10 in Horizon League play with only four games remaining. They return to play Friday night against Youngstown State, who beat them by three in Milwaukee last month.

How did the Panthers do so well in the second half? For one, they didn’t force three-pointers. In fact, they forced themselves to get the ball down low often in the second stanza, only taking six of their 22 shots beyond the arc after the break.

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Groupon deal for Loyola game #IamUWM

Loyola Athletics is putting up tickets to the Milwaukee Panthers game on February 25th on Groupon.

For $15, the fan gets two tickets and two hot dogs.  They claim that it’s a $38.50 value.

As usual, I’m planning on making the trip, but PantherU will be down there earlier than usual to check out the new digs and pay homage to Loyola alumni and fellow fan Greybee62 of the RamblerMania board, who died last month.

You can find the deal here, but only until midnight tomorrow.  The Groupon closes once February 9th begins.

Loyola gets a new logo

How’s this for a new logo?

Loyola unveiled a new, slightly-better-but-still-pretty-bad logo for their program's new beginning.

The Loyola Ramblers unveiled the new logo to the world that updates the look for Loyola as they move into the new era.

Loyola recently finished a $100 million renovation and construction for the newly christened Gentile Arena and Norville Center.  It’s pretty great.  What isn’t great? This logo.

Loyola’s design of a new logo really isn’t anything good.  This is what I see when I see Loyola’s new logo:

They still have a dog that is cross-eyed and looks happy/stupid like my cousin Danny at our family picnic last summer.  It literally looks like the people at Sports Graphics got some terrible direction from Loyola University, because the finished product looks like the original wolf logo slapped on Microsoft WordArt letters.

This is exactly what I see when I look at the new Ramblers logo:

My cousin Danny, Ramblin' on some WordArt.

Never mind that Illwauk, fan of the Panthers and freelance graphic designer, has already designed a waaaaaaaay better logo for the Ramblers.  Just go ahead and take the awful design and make it slightly better.

Illwauk's design of a football helmet with his new Loyola logo. Note: the new official logo is the terrible one, not this one.

Here’s an idea, Loyola.  Go pay Illwauk about 1/10th the price you paid Sports Graphics, give him vague guidelines, and watch him blow away every single sketch-up you saw SG come up with.

Just my two cents.

Horizon League Power Rankings (12.12.11)

This is a big week for Horizon League teams in non-conference play.  Some games on the docket this week include #15 Wisconsin at Milwaukee, Cincinnati at Wright State and UIC at Oregon State. Cincinnati/Wright State is a very intriguing matchup due to Cincinnati’s major suspensions from their brawl at Xavier.  Wright State has a real chance to steal one at home.  Milwaukee also welcomes a major rival to their home floor as they take on Jordan Taylor and the Wisconsin Badgers.  They key to this game for the Panthers is to avoid going cold on offense, and that will be a huge task with tenacity the Badgers display on defense. Still, an upset against Wisconsin would be huge for Milwaukee’s confidence as they inch closer to conference play, and could move them up to the top of the Power Rankings.  See where they’re currently at, below…

In descending order…

Free Ben Averkamp.

10. Loyola (2-7) – Despite their most recent victory, the Ramblers are a one-man band that will struggle to win more than 2 league games this year.  Without Ben Averkamp’s monster game on Saturday, the Ramblers would have lost to a Toledo team that is one of the worst in the nation.  That tells you all you need to know about where they belong in this conference.

9. UIC (3-5) – A more balanced win, but over a similar opponent as Loyola. Northern Illinois is a really bad team as is evidenced by their 0-8 record.  Still, UIC managed to win, and they can earn a “moral victory” by keeping it close against Oregon State later this week.

8. Green Bay (4-6) – The Phoenix had a tough week, getting blown out by Wisconsin and Marquette. That was to be expected, but they’re not exactly upwardly mobile at this point.  Don’t expect them to move up this list much in the next couple weeks, as their only game in the next week and a half is against Michigan Tech.  At least they won’t have any bad losses, right?

7. Wright State (4-6) – A win over Miami (OH) isn’t what you would call a “good” win, but to beat an in-state rival is always a good win.  The interstate battle continues as the Raiders host Cincinnati and Ohio in the next week.  There’s a real opportunity here for the Raiders to move on up this list…

6. Butler (4-6) – Yet another 4-6 team, Butler has been a disappointment so far.  We knew they would struggle.  The question was, how much?  Losing to a decent Ball State team is not what the Bulldogs were hoping for to start off a 4-game road trip that includes games against Purdue, Gonzaga, and Stanford.  The Bulldogs could re-enter league play at 4-9 with their “signature” victory coming over Savannah State (seriously).  Not exactly the start Coach Stevens was hoping for.

Doug Anderson's athleticism has been on full display.

5. Detroit (5-7) – If the key to winning basketball games was getting exciting fast break dunks, the Titans would be in the Top 25. Led by high flying wing Doug Anderson, the Titans are starting to play a better brand of basketball, but the turnovers persist.  Ray McCallum and the crew take on #16 Mississippi State on Saturday.  Their chances of victory are greatly improved by Eli Holman’s controversial reinstatement.  If the offense goes through him, there are few teams on the schedule they can’t beat.

4. Youngstown State (6-3) – The Penguins lack an impressive victory, and a loss to Buffalo is nothing to be ashamed about. They’re on the right track, but they have a long way to go if they expect to stay in this spot. The teams directly behind them certainly won’t be complacent.

3. Valparaiso (7-3) – The Crusaders can get a nice win over visiting Oakland on Saturday, and they are just a small step behind in these Power Rankings.  They have a very good shot at winning their next 3 games which would give them a 10-3 record before their matchup against Milwaukee in conference play.  Go Valpo!

2. Milwaukee (8-2) – The Panthers suffered a tough loss at Northern Iowa, but the UNI Panthers are a really good, tournament caliber team.  The Panthers can bounce back with a HUGE game against the Wisconsin Badgers on Tuesday.  If they can shock Wisconsin, it would be one of the biggest regular season wins in Milwaukee’s history.

1. Cleveland State (10-1) – The Vikings continue to win in a variety of ways, but they’ve shown their vulnerability.  Ten wins is sweet, but the Vikings have a pretty weak non-conference slate in the next couple weeks, so improving their RPI is probably about as high as it’s going to be (#38) for the rest of the year. At this point, however, they have the best chance of any team in the conference at obtaining an at-large berth.

Horizon League Power Rankings (12.5.2011)

What an exciting week in Horizon League action. Seven of the first nine conference games were within 6 points in the end. Such a great way to start the conference season.  It wasn’t all conference fun however. The league went 2-0 against the Big East as well. This league continues to improve year in and year out.

In descending order…

10. Loyola – The Ramblers are lost. There is very little to be positive about as they traveled to Wisconsin and were thoroughly outplayed in every facet of each game.  Without Courtney Stanley, this team doesn’t have a competent floor general, and I expect to see them stay in this spot for the foreseeable future.

9. UIC – The Flames could make a case here to be a bit higher. They played both Green Bay and Milwaukee down to the wire and even took the more talented Panthers to overtime.  UIC has a ton of potential with their undersized guards Gary Talton, Daniel Barnes and Marc Brown. Brown, a freshman, will be a really nice player as he continues to mature.

8. Wright State –  The Raiders nearly pulled off the upset against Cleveland State, but a loss is a loss. However, they rebounded in a big way against Youngstown State at home. The Raiders are going to struggle this year. That much is obvious. But they have to feel good about how junior transfer Julius Mays has played so far.

7. Green Bay – Hey, I don’t care who they played, anytime you can start the conference season 2-0 you have to be happy about it.  The Phoenix are a very young team and they’ll continue to learn on the fly. Seventh seems about right for them, and I expect them to hover around this spot all season.

6. Detroit – They beat St. John’s on Dickie V night on ESPN2, but this team looks rudderless. It’s no secret that Ray McCallum has been questioned as a head coach.  It’s beginning to look like he may be nothing more than a recruiter. Still, with that much talent, I expect them to figure things out sooner or later. Eli Holman was recently reinstated but has yet to play in a game. That will certainly change things for them.  He has NBA talent.

Kendrick Perry has played like a man possessed making YSU a threat.

5. Youngstown State – The Penguins were looking great to move into the top 4 of the power rankings until they blew the game at Wright State late.  Kendrick Perry has been outstanding as just a sophomore. He leads the conference in points per game.  Incredible that Jerry Slocum is experiencing a revival in year 7 at Youngstown.

4. Butler – I have a hard time putting Butler any lower than this despite their mediocre record. The Bulldogs lost a heartbreaker against Valpo in overtime and it puts them at 0-1 in conference play. It’ll be interesting to see if Coach Brad Stevens continues to go with two freshmen (Kameron Woods and Roosevelt Jones) in the starting lineup. The Bulldogs need someone to step up and score consistently.

3. Valparaiso – The Crusaders could certainly argue that they belong in the top two after the win in overtime over Butler.  Richie Edwards has been tremendous as of late and Coach Bryce Drew has a great trio of forwards in Ryan Broekhoff, Kevin Van Wijk, and Edwards.  These guys can definitely challenge for the Horizon League title this year.

Tony Meier adds a different dimension to an already potent Milwaukee squad.

2. Milwaukee– Following up a blowout against Loyola, the Panthers struggled against UIC late. It was a good show of resiliency and it proved valuable as they won their next game at DePaul despite a frantic comeback from the Blue Demons.  This team has a ton of talent and they’ll continue to gel as the season wears on.

1. Cleveland State – The Vikings continue to play well winning their first two conference games on the road.  It was this degree of difficulty that keeps them in first for now. As a basketball fan, I just can’t wait to see them clash with Valpo and Milwaukee.  Defensively, they’re a treat to watch.

Black and Gold gets it right in second stanza

After going in at halftime with only a four-point lead against a team picked to be one of the dregs of the Horizon League, the Milwaukee Panthers came out of the break firing to blow out the Loyola Ramblers, 59-41 in front of 3,517 fans at the U.S. Cellular Arena.

Ryan Allen had a major alley-oop, but more importantly played mistake free for 28 minutes

Milwaukee’s first-half problems had a lot to do with how they shot the ball; there were quite a bit of missed shots that allowed the Ramblers to keep it close, and the Panthers led 22-18 at halftime.

Perhaps a big reason the Panthers shot poorly was that they missed Ja’Rob McCallum in the lineup.  McCallum, who had an injured wrist in the offseason, had the injury flare up on him and the team held him out as a precaution so as not to aggravate it further.  The Panthers really missed McCallum’s high offensive rating (103.5) when they were forced to start Paris Gulley in his place.

Gulley, who started the SMSU game at point guard to start the season, started in the shooting guard slot and did not win anybody over with his play on offense tonight.  Gulley had a rough night shooting the ball, going 0-for-5 from the field and registering only a turnover and two personal fouls in 17 minutes of play.  Gulley did play his usual airtight defense, locking down Joe Crisman, who finished with six points despite coming in averaging over ten.

Still, the shooting guard rotation seems to have cleared up a bit.  Evan Richard, who had a rough time last week, came out and did enough to warrant continued playing time.  With McCallum out, Richard played 23 minutes and scored seven points on 2-of-5 shooting with a three pointer and two free throws.  Richard also registered elsewhere, picking up three rebounds as well as an assist and a block without turning the ball over once.

Kaylon Williams was in control the whole time he was in the game.

Once the game got into the second half, the team’s shooting woes subsided and the Panthers grew a commanding lead gradually over the course of the half.  Milwaukee got solid performances from Kyle Kelm (13 pts, 6 rbs, 2 blks, 6-for-7 FG) and Kaylon Williams (12 pts, 7 rbs, 7 asts, 3 stls, only 2 TO) to really blow the game wide open.

It seemed that Williams and Kelm have really started to grow a rapport with each other and it showed tonight.  Kelm’s 6-of-7 from the floor came largely from Williams finding him down low for easy baskets.  Because Kelm has been shooting the ball better from the outside as the season has gone on, and James Haarsma has all season, the Panthers were able to stretch out the Rambler defense and get a lot of nice inside looks.  This really was where the Panthers broke the game open, scoring 34 points in the paint compared to Loyola’s 8.

The other good part about the game was the fact that the Panthers cut down on mistakes in a huge way.  Their seven turnovers were the lowest they’ve had all season and the leader, point guard Kaylon Williams, only turned the ball over twice on a couple of passes where he drove and tried to do too much with it.  Williams especially looked much better today, controlling the game in a way reminiscent of Jason Kidd.  His assist to turnover ratio for the season has been boosted to 1.6.

Remember when I wrote "There's no better feeling than faith rewarded?" Rob Jeter's team is 6-1, the best start in his career. Photo by UWM Post.

All of this said and I haven’t even gotten to Ryan Allen, the senior wing guard who led the team with 14 points on 5-for-11 shooting with five rebounds and two blocks in 28 minutes of mistake-free basketball.  Allen didn’t take the outside shots that Loyola gave him early in the game, but in a stretch in the second half he hit two long distance bombs that barely touched net, then hit both free throws he took with dead-eye accuracy.

Tony Meier returned tonight, playing 18 tough minutes as he scored three points and pulled down four rebounds while going 1-of-6 from the field.  It was Meier’s first game action since the NIT game at Northwestern in March.  Look for him to get better and help the team more as he gets over his leg injury.

The game wasn’t without its problems.  The slow first-half start was troublesome, as was the continued mediocre shooting from the free throw line (7-for-14).  Milwaukee could have really blown the game open if they had taken care of business in the first half.  In the final five minutes, coach Rob Jeter took a few players out when instead of running the clock down, they pushed the tempo to try and get some points.  After that, the Panthers’ “C” team played out the game.  Milwaukee registered two trillionaires on the night in Christian Wolf and Quinton Gustavson (that’s 1 or more minutes played with no statistical implication on the box score).

Milwaukee turns its attention to struggling UIC on Saturday to hopefully go 2-0 to start the Horizon League season and get off to an impressive 7-1 start heading into the big hitters of the non-conference schedule.

Highlights:

Press Conference:

Preview from both sides: Loyola vs. Milwaukee

Joining me today to preview the Horizon League opener for Loyola and Milwaukee is RamblerHoops.com blogger Peter Skiadopolous.  I have two articles here; one written by Peter from the Rambler point of view followed by one written by me from the Panther point of view.

Enjoy, and let’s get this thing started right!  Go Panthers!

Loyola looking to build a winning streak

By Peter Skiadopolous

The time has come to separate contenders and pretenders in the Horizon League. Loyola (1-4) heads into Thursday’s game against Milwaukee (5-1) as the heavy underdog. Both the Milwaukee Panthers and Loyola Ramblers, however, are 0-0 in conference play so ultimately, the game is by no means one sided. Loyola’s dismal record reflects the tough level of competition they have had already, Illinois Fighting Illini (BigTen) and the Kansas State Wildcats (Big12) as well as some late game blunders against less talented teams. Now that Horizon League play is opening up, the real test of the season is forthcoming, because when all is said and done, the conference tournament winner gets an automatic NCAA tournament bid, something Loyola hasn’t been to since 1985.

Porter Moser has a very different style and roster than Jim Whitesell had last season.

While the current overall standings may not indicate a Rambler return , Porter Moser and his squad beg to differ. Moser has consistently touched on the dedication the team shows in practice and their commitment to weekly improvement. The Ramblers finally clicked on all cylinders during their 64-50 win over Fordham at the Gentile Arena and will need to bring equal intensity and game play into Milwaukee as they take on the Panthers this Thursday. Veteran members of this year’s team like Walt Gibler and Ben Averkamp already have a remembrance of the powerful Panthers, but freshman stand out guard Joe Crisman should be in for a treat. The hostility of a conference game will bring out the guards true colors and test his leadership skills that have been already commended by Porter Moser in post game conferences.

Loyola and Milwaukee have played some highly touted games recently, splitting the two contests last year with each school winning in away games. The previous twelve games between the two have also been split proving each school’s strong, competitive Horizon League nature. Expect a close battle in which neither team lets up. For the Ramblers, a fast paced attack should be employed as well as the tandem of Denzel Brito and Crisman at the guard positions. Milwaukee likely already has their eye on captains Gibler and Averkamp so it is a must Porter Moser utilizes the rest of the roster to his advantage, just as he did against Fordham. Loyola proved to be able to not rely only on the senior captains as they were held to a combined meager 17 points. The strong performances by supporting cast members showed the depth Porter Moser has at his finger tips and the Ramblers capability to adjust.

Panthers look to hit the ground running in Horizon League

By Jimmy Lemke

From the Milwaukee point of view, the Panthers have an opportunity to start 1-0 and get a leg up on the Horizon League conference race.  Last season, Milwaukee was slow out of the gate, going 4-5 in the first half of conference play and tying Cleveland State and Butler for the conference crown. One of the big reasons they had to share the title was a loss in a game they should have won against Loyola at home.  While the other four losses were understandable – at Green Bay, at Valpo, home against Cleveland State and at Wright State – dropping a home game to the Ramblers was a major flop game by the Panthers in 2010-11.

Tony Meier will be a game-time decision, but don't expect too much even if he does play.

With conference title and NCAA Tournament aspirations in mind again in 2011-12, the Panthers need this victory to hit the ground running and prepare themselves for the long season.  Lose and the Panthers will likely be looking up at Cleveland State and possibly Valpo for the rest of December.

The main storyline for tonight’s game is the return of Tony Meier.  The senior forward who was named to the Horizon League Preseason First Team is a game time decision and will likely only play 10-15 minutes at most even if he does get action.  Meier scored 12 points per game last season and was one of the best shooters in the conference, making 50% of field goals, 44% of three-pointers, and 80% of free throws.  The senior has missed all games up to this point.

Loyola’s program under Porter Moser is playing a much different game than it did under Jim Whitesell.  The Ramblers play a straight up man defense and will occasionally mix in a zone to confuse opponents or take advantage of poor shooting by the opponent.  The defense is susceptible to a strong inside presence.  The Panthers should be looking to pound the ball inside to get Ben Averkamp in foul trouble and force the Ramblers other post players to win the game for them.  Walt Gibler is an outstanding role player, but he’s not a #1 post guy, and the Panthers can seriously take advantage of that.

All signs point to Ben Averkamp as the focal point of the Ramblers now.

The reason you try to get Averkamp out of the game is because he is their best remaining weapon.  With Courtney Stanley out for the year and the graduations of Geoff McCammon, Andy Polka, and Terrance Hill coming last May, Averkamp has become the focal point of the Ramblers offense.  The Panthers’ inside pair of Haarsma and Kelm will try to get Averkamp in foul trouble and force the Ramblers to become an outside shooting team.

The Ramblers might not be entirely against this; Denzel Brito is 8 of 19 from beyond the arc so far this season and Joe Crisman is 9 of 24.  The pair of guards have proven to be Loyola’s most reliable scorers on the perimeter, as both are averaging over 40% from the field.

Milwaukee’s keys to victory will be to force the Ramblers to take many outside shots by getting Averkamp out of the game in foul trouble and getting up big early.  If the Panthers can succeed in these two areas, the Ramblers will be in a hole that their talent just won’t be able to climb out of.

After tonight, the Panthers stay at home for a 1 p.m. tip-off against UIC on Saturday.

Other match-ups Thursday in Horizon League action include UIC at Green Bay, Youngstown State at Detroit, and Cleveland State at Wright State. Valparaiso and Butler open their conference season on Saturday at Hinkle Fieldhouse.