Bench key for Panthers down the stretch

In advancing to the second round of the 2014 Horizon League Tournament, the Milwaukee Panthers got strong games from three starters who scored in double figures and Steve McWhorter added seven rebounds to his 15 points. While these performances were important, an argument can be made that the Panthers would not be packing up to play Valpo in Green Bay Friday night if it were not for the play of three guys off the bench.

Malcolm Moore played like a senior who is not ready to be done playing based on the energy he provided MKE off the bench. For the night he had seven points, seven rebounds, two steals, a block and one critical charging foul that he was able to draw.

Guards Cody Wichmann and Jevon Lyle also played critical roles in the Panthers advancing. Wichmann and Lyle scored 12 points and 11 points respectively. The two of them combined to hit five of the Panthers’ nine three pointers.

The Panthers led by a score of 22-19 with just over seven minutes left in the first half. The Panthers then went on a 20-2 run to grab total control of the game over the next 5 minutes. In this 20-2 run, these three players scored nine of the Panthers 20 points on this run that ended up sending them to the locker room with a 14-point lead.

In the second half, the Panthers had to expect pressure from the Titans as it was the only hope they had of getting back in the game. The Panthers got heavy full court pressure and trap pressure from the Titans the entire second half and it caused some problems and lead to several turnovers. Those problems with the defensive pressure were not helped by the fact that starters Austin Arians and Jordan Aaron had to be benched for large chunks of the second half with significant foul problems.

The Panthers solved the problems of the pressure by going to a guard heavy line-up and they solved the foul problems to their two starters by going back to Wichmann and Lyle off the bench. Both hit critical shots to help hold off the hard charging Titans in the second half. On the night, the Panthers bench scored 33 of the teams 83 points and converted six of the team’s nine made three-pointers.

The Panthers now head to Green Bay to try and beat Valpo for the first time this year. The winner of this game will play top seeded Green Bay on Saturday. The second round of the Horizon League Tournament and the semifinals of the tournament occur on back to back nights.

Should the Panthers make the semifinals and ultimately finals of the tournament. they will need to get production from the three bench players that put them in the second round. The production can come in the form of energy, rebounds, points, or stability that is so critical to the team in the tournament.

Without the play of Moore, Wichmann and Lyle, the Panthers would be watching from home tonight. Getting production off the bench earned the Panthers another 40 minutes. If they’re going to get another 40, it’s going to be with Rob Jeter taking chances on extending his bench in a marathon conference tournament this weekend.

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