Panthers dispatch UALR; eyes on the Horizon

It sure as hell wasn’t pretty.

The Milwaukee Panthers overcame poor shooting inside the arc and at the line, a loss on the boards and a seven-point second half deficit to take a game from the UALR Trojans in Little Rock, 59-54.

It was quite a sight to see – the Panthers shot just 6-for-20 in the game from inside the arc and 11-for-21 at the line, but knocked down 12 of 24 three-pointers to secure a road victory against the Sun Belt’s reigning NCAA automatic qualifier.

Milwaukee’s lead at the end was not statistically safe until they scored the final two points of the game to make it a five-point victory for the Black and Gold.  Leading the way for the Panthers was James Haarsma, who racked up 17 points and a surprisingly low five rebounds to pace Milwaukee.  Haarsma’s 6-for-9 shooting from the field was also the best for the Panthers, which was 66.6% but came in at 77% in Efficient Field Goal percentage.

Head coach Rob Jeter’s crew did not overcome the scoring drought problem in this game, but still won when it was all said and done.  The Panthers went from the 10:40 mark of the first half following Evan Richard’s two-ball until the 4:03 mark when Paris Gulley canned a three-pointer to make a six and a half minute field goal scoring drought.

The good part for the Panthers is that they came out firing in the second half and did not let a three-point halftime deficit become more.  James Haarsma dropped in a three-pointer to open the second half and Kaylon Williams made another of his own to open the half on a 6-1 run.

Following a Paris Gulley turnover, the Trojans took the lead on a Chuck Guy layup and immediately put the Panthers in a seven-point hole with some solid play by Englishman Will Neighbour. In the 10-1 Trojan run, Neighbour got a steal, an offensive rebound, a dunk, a blocked shot, and a three-pointer before Milwaukee scored again.

The story for the Panthers was their three-point shooting, and that’s what kept them in it.  Haarsma eliminated the halftime deficit with a three.  Kaylon Williams ended the 10-1 run with a three.  Ja’Rob McCallum hit another one to cut the deficit to one, and after a UALR bucket, Haarsma banged home a trey to tie the game at 40.

After that, the game went back and forth and Milwaukee didn’t have a two-possession lead until Haarsma made a layup on a Williams assist with just over a minute to go.  The lead grew to six after Williams stole the ball with :46 seconds left and passed it to Haarsma for another layup, but the possibility of overtime was still in hand until Haarsma iced the game with two free throws with a fraction of a second remaining.

Milwaukee returns home and opens Horizon League play with struggling conference member Loyola on Thursday.  The Ramblers got their first victory of the season Saturday with a 64-50 decision over the Atlantic-10’s Fordham University.  The game marked Loyola’s first game in the newly renovated and rechristened Gentile Arena.  Let me tell you, I’m very excited to see it and will likely not wait for the first Panther game there on February 25th to go there.

It was the Ramblers who handed Milwaukee their first conference loss of the season last year, making the Panthers 1-1 in a game they should have won.  Milwaukee will try to wipe the bitter taste of that loss out of their mouths and send the Ramblers whimpering up to Green Bay.

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