The importance of sustaining momentum

Thursday night, while everyone was focused on potential seedings in the Horizon League Tournament and the victory of the night against UIC, Rob Jeter and the Milwaukee Panthers turned their attention to something else – Loyola.

The Ramblers and their 1-16 Horizon League record represent the final regular season game for Jeter’s Panthers as they head into the Horizon League Tournament intent on winning four games and the tournament championship.

The same things could be said about Loyola that were said about UIC. This won’t be an easy game. Nothing is guaranteed. A loss is not out of the question.

But you knew all that. What is at stake this afternoon is not so much a final victory, a seed or the chance to pick an opponent for Tuesday night, but instead it is momentum.

You don’t need to be a physics major to understand how important that is heading into the conference tournament.

Despite going on a major skid from the middle of January to the middle of February, the Milwaukee Panthers have the opportunity to head into Tuesday riding a four-game winning streak, something that didn’t seem possible heading into the Cleveland State game early last week.

The truth is, the full week from last week Wednesday to Thursday that featured only one game, a simple non-conference game that allowed the Panthers to take time off and heal some wounds.

They were tested Thursday night at UIC. They’ll be tested today against Loyola. But following through and beating the Ramblers will put Milwaukee on a four-game roll that will certainly bring an air of confidence into the Klotsche Center for the first home game on-campus in tournament history.

Today’s game will mark the second meeting between the teams this season. The Panthers won a blowout in Milwaukee, their first victory of the conference season and one in a four-game winning streak. It will be the sixth time that Milwaukee has seen Ben Averkamp, cousin of Jason and the best player on the Ramblers team.

Averkamp was minimized at the Cell, scoring 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting. Those aren’t bad numbers, but coupled with two rebounds and three turnovers, it was not a banner night for the junior Pre-Med student.

Panther fans will also know Germantown’s Averkamp from his recruitment by Milwaukee, spurning the hometown Black and Gold for Loyola and its medical school – Ben has aspirations of being a doctor. Nevermind that over half of UWM Pre-Med students are admitted to medical school after graduation, a high percentage for school that doesn’t have a medical school of its own.

For me, the pull of today’s game with Loyola is not just about the game but also about a chance to see Loyola’s brand new basketball facilities, the renovated and rechristened Gentile Arena as well as the Norville Center, the practice, training and office facility for the entire program.

The arena, which used to be a glorified high school gym, has been reshaped into a bi-level seating bowl that looks like a true basketball arena.

I can’t wait to take as many pictures as possible and share them on the forum.

For anyone interested in scenarios, Bill Potter of the Horizon League deserves your respect and admiration for laying it all out yesterday. It’s a bit dated as Butler lost to Valpo, but there are still seven possible scenarios in play.

If they win:

– Clinch the No. 3 seed with a CSU loss and Detroit win.
– Clinch the No. 4 seed with a CSU win and Detroit win.
– Clinch the No. 5 seed with a CSU win and YSU win.

If they lose:

– Clinch the No. 5 seed with a YSU win.
– Clinch the No. 5 seed with a YSU win and Green Bay win.
– Clinch the No. 6 seed with a Detroit win.
– Clinch the No. 6 seed with a Detroit win and Green Bay win.

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