I Believe: Game 10 vs. Wisconsin


Milwaukee (4-5, 1-1 Horizon) vs. Wisconsin (6-2)

Kohl Center – Madison, Wisconsin

Optimism.  It’s hard to find on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee when it comes to the basketball team.  After a close loss to Marquette, the Panthers dispatched Youngstown State.  But it was Saturday’s result that sucked out all the good feelings, because you just don’t lose at home to a conference rival by 23 points.  What’s worse is the game was much further apart than the score indicates.

Jekyll and Hyde doesn’t begin to cover it.  Milwaukee beat Sweet 16 Northern Iowa and then lost a home game to Western Michigan by double digits.  So who shows up tonight against Wisconsin?  The Panthers absolutely have the talent to beat Wisconsin.  That’s no joke.  But they also have the ability to fall to far less talented teams.  So far, I count three losses in games we should have won, and all five are games the team could have won.

As for the game tonight, the Panthers are a 20.5 point underdog going into the Kohl Center.  I can’t be sure, but that’s like Chaminade taking on Ralph Sampson’s Virginia team in the Maui Invitational.

The Badgers are paced by Jon Leuer, an early favorite for National Player of the Year and a shoo-in for All-American on one level or another.  The senior is averaging a flat 20 points per game and leads UW-Madison with 7.8 rebounds per game.  He’s a dynamite scorer who can hurt you in the paint and beyond the arc.

While Leuer is the focal point of the Badgers offense, the man who makes the wheels go round is Jordan Taylor.  He’s a scorer too (15.1 ppg), but his real value is as a point guard, where he doesn’t turn the ball over and dishes out assists with the best of them.

The Panthers have been caught twice this season looking past opponents to future games.  The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Western Michigan dropped the Panthers because they were looking ahead to Marquette.  While Cleveland State was certainly talented enough to beat Milwaukee, the Panthers could have been looking to tonight’s game.  A victory over Wisconsin doesn’t cancel out the CSU loss, but it’s a start to winning back fans in Milwaukee.

The Kohl Center is a fortress.  The Badgers are 71-5 in Kohl Center home non-conference games under Bo Ryan, a staggering mark that is justifiably intimidating to all ye who enter.

It’s going to take a cold mind set and nerves of steel to win tonight.  Without that, it could be a long night once again.


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