Fighting jet lag: Game 4 vs. Niagara


Milwaukee (1-2) vs. Niagara (0-0)

‘Taps’ Gallagher Center, Lewiston, New York: 6:00 p.m. CST

Just two days after leaving Portland, Oregon, the Milwaukee Panthers stumble into Niagara with a losing record and a host of problems to match.

The easiest to see is the one that sits right in the box score: free throw shooting.  In just three games, the Panthers are shooting awful from the free throw line, just 50.6% (43-85).  Should the Panthers shoot the same clip as their opponents (76.5%), they’d have an average of seven more points per game; not enough to get rid of 20 and 11-point losses, but enough that it’s a major problem.

The thing that concerns me more, however, is the fact that the Panthers are being outrebounded on an average of three boards per game.  The number is skewed by the Portland blowout, but the fact remains that Milwaukee has high-major size, dominates the Horizon League in rebounds, and is off to a poor start on the glass.

Niagara, on the other hand, isn’t off to a slow start; that’s because the game tonight will be their first of the 2010-11 season.

The Purple Eagles come in looking to replace four players who started over 20 games last season, including Panther destroyers Tyrone Lewis (23 pts, 5 reb) and Bilal Benn (19 pts, 8 reb).  Only Anthony Nelson and Kashief Edwards return as starters for the Purple Eagles.

The guess here is that Kashief Edwards will play a much more prominent role in Niagara’s plans.  The 6’5”, 195 lb. forward shot 57% from the floor last year in averaging 7.8 points per game.  Anthony Nelson, who started every game for the Purple Eagles and played the most minutes after Benn, is the leading returning scorer at 9.9 ppg and rebounder at 4.8 rpg.

That figures to be the main problem for the Purple Eagles: rebounding.  Bilal Benn was a couple rebounds away from averaging a double-double last season, and Nelson can’t do all the glass cleaning tomorrow, because he’s going to be on the perimeter playing point guard and defending our guards.

That may come down to Skylar Jones, a freshman wing who was noted to be a good rebounder coming out of Mount Vernon High School.

The biggest incoming player the Purple Eagles have is Joseph Thomas, who wasn’t evaluated by ESPN’s recruiting services and just figures to be a body.  So who knows?  Bilal Benn was a big time rebounder, and he’s going to be awfully difficult to replace.

Word from Panther camp was that the team took a day off from shooting free throws to help a potential mind problem heading into the game.  Hopefully that worked out for them and they get their minds ready to shoot the rock.  It doesn’t get any easier after Niagara, with Northern Iowa, Western Michigan, and Marquette looming in the next week and a half.

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