Free throws kill Milwaukee’s chances

At the end of a grueling, breathtaking game, all the Milwaukee Panthers can say to themselves is, “What if?”

What if Kyle Kelm hadn’t injured his shoulder against UNI? What if the Panthers had hit their free throws?  What if Ja’Rob McCallum hadn’t been out the past two weeks?  What if Kaylon Williams had hit the three-pointer that would have put the Black and Gold ahead?  What if the Panthers weren’t so cold shooting the ball in the first half?

Alas, all Milwaukee is left with is a bunch of questions and a big, fat L.

Shooting just 30.8% in the first half, the Panthers seemingly dug themselves a hole they could not get out of, only to put on a run that got the lion’s share (or Panther’s share???) of 10,143 on their feet and cheering the Black and Gold.

Ryan Evans was the X-Factor for Wisconsin tonight.

The Panthers cut a 44-27 deficit to nothing with a 21-4 run in the second half to tie the game at 48.  That was when the Badgers stepped up and did what needed to be done.

Jared Berggren, who played out of his mind, canned a three with the shot clock buzzer going off to put the Badgers ahead 51-48.  On the other end, Ryan Allen found himself unguarded under the hoop and slammed home a jam to make it 51-50 with only 4:08 remaining.

But the Badgers pulled away to make it 56-50 with an All-American three-pointer from Jordan Taylor.

Milwaukee missed its final chances, and the game ended 60-54, a golden opportunity slipping through their fingers.

Tony Meier led the Panthers with 15 points, all of which came in the second half.  A herculean effort from James Haarsma shot 5 of 6 from the field and pulled down four rebounds against a significantly taller Badger front line.

It was that height that made the difference for Wisconsin, who got a career high 16 points from Ryan Evans (who said he was going to be the x factor tonight?), many of which came posting up Ryan Allen, who gave up three inches to Evans, five if you consider Evans’ sweet flat-top.

The most important stat of the night was seven for seventeen – otherwise known as the Panthers’ free throw shooting.  Missing ten of seventeen from the charity stripe killed Milwaukee.

If Tony Meier was shooting in the first half like he did in the second, this one would have been in the bag.

Beyond that, the Panthers only made 22.7% of their shots beyond the arc.  Milwaukee’s shooting woes were the only thing that they couldn’t do tonight.  Shoot their season average, even 13-of-17 from the stripe, and that’s a victory.

The University of Nebraska-Omaha, a first-year provisional D-I program, comes to the Klotsche Center on Saturday. Game time is 7 p.m.

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