PantherU

Finding their rhythm

When Jordan Aaron took one on the forehead from from Alec Brown, it wasn’t a malicious act by the Green Bay big man – Jordan’s simply a foot and a half shorter, perfect height to take one for the team right across the eyebrow.

For the teams, this wasn’t the case. There was malicious intent. The Panthers had an axe to grind after letting the game against the Phoenix slip away in January at the U.S. Cellular Arena. They came out a little too excited, digging a 16-8 hole early, but kicked into high gear and never let off the gas in a 73-63 victory that was far more decisive than the score would suggest.

It was a complete victory. Jordan Aaron may have had the most to say following last month’s loss in which he scored 26 but dribbled the ball off his foot on the potential game-winning possession in regulation. He has scored 30 before, and over 20 many times now – but there was something terribly efficient about the Panthers’ shooting guard.

Not only was he 8-of-13 from the field and 10-for-10 from the free throw line, but his entire game was deliberate. The Jordan Aaron of the past has always been one to try to dribble to create something and throw up an inordinate amount of circus shots. The Jordan Aaron of the past three games, the one who took over and trounced the No. 1 team in the Horizon League on their home floor, is a stone cold killer. There was no dribbling into crazy situations. He wasn’t trying to find a hole. Aaron used to attack with reckless abandon, but there was something artfully deliberate. He wasn’t dribbling to find a hole, he was dribbling to exploit a hole that was already there. He wasn’t popping a three for no reason, he was popping threes because they gave him just enough space to get it up there. Add in the fact that he’s playing honest-to-God defense for the first time in his career at Milwaukee over the last four games, and Aaron has really found his way as a Panther.

One player who probably has become indispensable to this team – especially on the defensive end – is Malcolm Moore. After spending much of the season on a hobbled knee, the senior looks like he finally is close to 100%. He has bounce in his step and he has no hesitation going head to head with anyone, no struggle running up the floor. The transition defense for Milwaukee was brilliant Saturday, in no small part because Moore – on the same day as an off performance from Kyle Kelm – was getting back fast to cut off any opportunities the Phoenix had on the break. He’s the perfect foil for Jordan Fouse down low, holding the Phoenix sophomore to 2-of-6 shooting. What could be the best thing about Malcolm Moore is that he didn’t participate in the Hill in preseason or much of the early year, so while everyone is playing a full schedule, he is only just hitting his stride.

As far as strides go, Rob Jeter has most definitely hit his hard. The Panthers coach conserved his timeouts wonderfully, but the ones he did spend were brilliant. Following the first half 13-0 run, he subbed out Jordan Aaron to get him some rest and let the Panthers catch their breath and plan for a wildly different game. Because of his conservation – the one at 21-16 was his only timeout outside the final four minutes of the game – he could truly control the last four minutes, keeping his team in check and their eyes on the prize.  This is a team that has fully embraced their coach, something that fans don’t always get to see. The look-in on the locker room after the game was pretty indicative about how the Panthers are behind their coach and he is behind them:

One final note on that video – you know the marketing department of the Horizon League loved Jeter’s reminder about class and study hall after the game.

Up next on the “Revenge Docket”  is Valparaiso, who got separation and left the Panthers in the dust at the ARC last month. Valpo is down after a defeat at home at the hands of Detroit, so you can expect they’ll be hungry to get a victory – let’s just hope they whet their appetite against former Mid-Con foes Oakland rather then next Saturday at the Cell.

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