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Panthers face Coyotes in final tune-up before conference play

There is one final item of business on the agenda for the Milwaukee Panthers prior to the beginning conference play next week. The Milwaukee Panthers will again try for their first road win of the season on Sunday afternoon in their final non-conference game of the season against the South Dakota Coyotes. This game is the Panthers’ third stop on a season long five game road trip including previous stops at SIU-Edwardsville and Arkansas. Following this contest, the Panthers will have their first two conference road games against Cleveland State and Detroit.
Matt Tiby and Steve McWhorter both have had solid non-conference seasons for the Panthers as both players are averaging ten points per game. As the Panthers approach conference play next week, it is important for them to attempt to develop a third scorer. Rob Jeter has several candidates to become that third scorer on the roster – Jevon Lyle, JJ Panoske, Akeem Springs, Cody Wichmann and Justin Jordan have all shown signs of being able to step into this role offensively. The role of a third scorer does not necessarily need to be filled by one person but it is important for the functioning of the offense for it to be developed regardless of if it is from one person on a consistent person or a different person in that role on a per game basis.
South Dakota enters this game with an identical record to the Panthers of five and eight. The Coyotes have a two and one record at home so far this season under first year head coach Craig Smith, who was previously an assistant at Nebraska. While the Coyotes record does not look that great it is important for the Panthers to not take them lightly. South Dakota began the season with five losses, but have gone 5-3 since and are looking to start a three-game winning streak. They have lost three of their games in overtime. The Coyotes offense is centered around two players who are each averaging over 15 points per game. Senior guard Brandon Bos is averaging 16.7 points per game while fellow senior guard Tyler Larson is averaging 15.5 points per game. Larson affects the game all areas as he is the teams second leading scorer, in addition to being the teams leader in both rebounds and assists.
Another talent of Larson is taking games over when his team needs him most. In the teams most recent game on December 21st, a victory over the Montana Grizzlies, Larson was clutch scoring  six of his team high 15 points in the final two minutes of the game including the eventual game tying and game winning baskets. The Panthers need to be aware of Larson and his tendency to want to take games over for his team in the latter stages of games.
This game is important to the Panthers on several levels. The team needs some confidence and momentum before beginning conference play next week. It would be good for the team to go into conference play feeling reasonable good about their level of play on both ends of the floor. The Panthers have struggled on offense lately struggling to reach 60 points in four of their last games. In the Panthers recent game against Arkansas, the Panthers shot 4 for 24 on three point field goal attempts (16.7%) and 15 for 52 on field goals as a whole (28.8%). If the Panther’s are going to beat the Coyotes, they need to get good shots in the paint that are created through ball movement not forced and hurried long range jumpers.
Additionally, the Panthers need to build off an offensive positive from the Arkansas’ game. In that game, the Panthers got to the line 25 times and were able to convert 20 of those attempts for an 80% conversion rate. The fact that the Panthers were able to get to the line 25 times in a game is a positive because has been something the coaching staff has been trying to get the offense to achieve for most of the season.
Also, the Panthers hitting 80% of their free throws in the game shows improvement since free throw accuracy was a weakness earlier in the season. Now the key for the Panthers is to establish this characteristic of their offense on a consistent basis. The Panthers and Coyotes match up evenly in stats and record so the Panthers should be able to win this game if they are able to execute offensively.  

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