Cat Fight!

DePaul is just a warm-up act to this.

Playing in front of a quiet crowd of “6,600” (yeah, right) is one thing.  Playing in front of a legitimate packed house against a better team is completely different.

Should the Milwaukee Panthers leave the McLeod Center with a victory over the UNI Panthers, the game will be nothing short of Milwaukee’s greatest accomplishment of the season to date.

Jake Koch is the engine that makes UNI go.

Ben Jacobson’s Panthers, like Rob Jeter’s Panthers, are 8-1.  The UNI version’s lone blemish comes from a 16-point road loss to Saint Mary’s University, a team who is 5-1 themselves.

UNI’s home, the McLeod Center, is a model arena for Milwaukee to emulate, just like the team on the court.  They are a patient basketball team that doesn’t turn the ball over too much and works the defense, drawing fouls and getting to the line at a great rate.  UNI shoots the ball better from the field (eFG% – 54.9) and averages more points per possession (1.07 to Milwaukee’s 1.02).

The Panthers are coming off six straight victories, three of which were over BCS opponents Iowa State, Iowa and Providence.  UNI dropped Iowa in their last match-up, 80-60, before a near-sellout crowd.

Today’s match-up is the third of a five-game homestand for UNI.  The Panthers are led in scoring by Anthony James at 14.4 ppg.  Last year, Milwaukee bottled up James, forcing him to go 2-of-6 from the field on his way to seven points and four rebounds.  After him is Ashwaubenon native Jake Koch, the junior forward who despite being 6’9” and 245 lb. only averages about 4.7 rebounds per game.

UNI's student section performing The Interlude, a dance number that is the nicest thing they do for opponents.

It is this last bit where the UNI Panthers game is lacking.  While they shoot the ball well (40% 3PT and 46.4% FG), Milwaukee can really gain an advantage by guarding them well on the perimeter.

Luckily for our program, this is exactly where the strength lies.  Paris Gulley, Ryan Allen and Kaylon Williams are lockdown defenders on the perimeter.  UNI will use ball screens to try and get their players open looks from long distance – last year, Jacobson’s team took 20 shots from beyond the arc to Milwaukee’s 11 – and none of their players are hesitant about shooting the three if it’s open.

Milwaukee will counter by doing the exact opposite – fight down low.  James Haarsma, Kyle Kelm (click the video link) and the low-post gang will man up to try and take down UNI’s post players.  Jake Koch may be one of their best big men, but he leads the team in assists and is second in rebounds.  His effective field goal percentage of 66.6 is not the kind of number that we want to leave on the court.  The same goes for 6’8” Seth Tuttle, a freshman and the leading rebounder for the Panthers.  Whereas Koch will likely find himself matched up against Kyle Kelm for much of the day, Tuttle will be taken by James Haarsma, who gives up a couple inches to the freshman but makes up for it in strength and rebounding ability.  The battle on the glass between these two should be a sight to see.  If Milwaukee can establish themselves in the paint and force these two to sit with foul trouble, UNI will be searching for answers on the fly and Jeter will have the upper hand.

Kyle Kelm needs to continue getting better every game.

The X Factor for Jacobsen will be Cedarburg native and sophomore Chip Rank. Rank, who comes off the bench for the Panthers, was Swing AAU teammates with Kyle Kelm and Evan Richard and committed to UNI over Milwaukee in a close decision two years ago.  Since then, Rank has been somewhat of a sixth man for the Panthers, playing the role of tweener forward who can shoot the three and post up for points.  Rank is capable of a lot of things, but it is his motor that separates him from the pack.  He can run the floor with the best of them.

Today’s game has been picked up by ESPN3, so for those of you not making the trip to Cedar Falls, go ahead and watch on your computers (hopefully you know how to connect to a TV) and watch the game unfold.

As it does, come back here to as we will be running a live chat for fans who, like me, are unfortunately unable to make it down.  While we will post the link here, you can also expect to see a gameday link around 12:30 today as we get ready for game time.

Milwaukee at UNI Game Chat

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