PantherU

On the line: Game 27 vs. Valparaiso

vs.

Valparaiso (19-7, 11-3) vs. Milwaukee (15-11, 10-5 HL)

U.S. Cellular Arena – Milwaukee, Wisconsin – 7 p.m.

TV: Time Warner Sports 32

It doesn’t get any bigger than this.  Yep, I said that two weeks ago when the Green Bay Phoenix made their way down to the Cell to take on our Milwaukee Panthers.  And you know what?  I was wrong.

Hey Kaylon, we'll take another 1-14-12-3 game if you want.

Because when you’re playing for essentially your first conference championship in five years, there is no bigger game than this.

All right, so the team does not win the conference if they win this game.  By now, every Panther fan knows a sweep of the final three games means a conference regular season championship only if Valpo were to lose one more game.

But it’s the momentum, more than anything, even moreso than keeping the possibility of a conference regular season championship alive.  Walking into the conference tournament going undefeated on the back nine in conference and needing only two victories to win the conference tournament is a big deal, big enough to warrant a long look from pundits who had Milwaukee dead in the water as they last made a trip into Indianapolis.

And here we stand.  Valpo is on the cusp, only a couple victories left before the Horizon League Championship is bestowed upon them, and the tremendous home court advantage that is the ARC along with it.  Tonight is their greatest test left.

Brandon Wood missed the game the last time these two played.

They come in winners of 8 of their last 10, only losing at home to Green Bay and on the road at Cleveland State.  Brandon Wood and Cory Johnson are two of the best 10 scorers in the Horizon League, and the emergence of Ryan Broekhoff as a legitimate, consistent third scoring option gives the Crusaders a very formidable lineup.  Add in defensive stopper Erik Buggs and always dependable but rarely spectacular Howard Little, and this game figures to be Milwaukee’s toughest test at home.

And it’s the final test at home in the regular season.  The biggest key to the game is Anthony Hill, who has the ability to dominate the post if he puts his mind to it.  Depending on the refs, Hill can either dominate (Green Bay and at UIC recently) or be subject to the quick foul (at Loyola) and sit for most of the game.

You can bet Homer Drew will be looking to go right at Hill on the offensive end, so look for Brandon Wood and Jay Harris to drive all night on the Panther big man to get him in foul trouble.

The Panthers can get around this by cutting off driving lanes.  They did this extremely well in both games against Butler and several other times this season, but the Crusaders are lightning quick and our Panthers will need to double time their lateral quickness to cut off the drives to the lane.

No team shoots the ball better than Valpo, who are rocking a 47.7 field goal percentage.

The last time that Milwaukee played Valpo, they had possibly their worst game of the season; the Panthers missed their first 12 shots, turned it over nine times in the first 12 minutes, and generally sucked while getting out to a 19-point deficit in the first half.

It was after the Valpo game when the team had their intrasquad discussion.  We can only hope that the Panthers keep it together and remember what they talked about heading into tonight against Valpo.

WAR MILWAUKEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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