Panthers take on conference monster Valpo

There is a common denominator between the Milwaukee Panthers and all of their Horizon League losses so far this season. In the opening game of league play, the Panthers lost the second half to Cleveland State by 30 points. In that game the Panthers allowed 57 in the second half, matching the total they scored for the entire game. A few days later the Panthers allowed a ten point half time deficit to quickly grow to 18 thanks to a quick 8-0 run. While the Panthers second half against Green Bay was not bad the Panthers again were plagued by a poor second half in their most recent loss to Oakland last week. They lost a one point lead in an 11-3 run that gave Oakland the lead for good. The bad second half’s have not been limited to the offensive or defensive end but rather to both ends in all of these instances. The Panthers will seek a strong second half in order to defeat Valparaiso in a rare Monday night Horizon league game.
Valparaiso enters into this game with an overall record of 18-4 and a 5-2 record in conference games. Valpo recently  received votes in the coaches poll toward a top 25 ranking. The Crusaders are very well balanced and talented team in many areas. Valpo is coached by Bryce Drew who has won two games for every game he has lost in his first three years as the coach at Valpo. In a one point loss to Green Bay Friday night the Crusaders had several chances in the last minute of the game to take a lead but failed to do so. In that game Valpo only gave up 51 points. That type of defensive performance has been the norm for Valpo as they have held their last six opponents to 64 points or less. Valpo ranks 36th nationally in points per game allowed and 16th nationally in defensive field goal percentage. In addition to the strong team defensive numbers, the Crusaders have an individual defensive force in Vashil Fernandez who has 67 blocks on the season so far including four against Green Bay Friday night.
From an individual perspective, Valpo is led by sophomore forward Alec Peters who averages 16.4 points per game. Peters has a decent shot at breaking over 1,000 points in only his second season as he has already surpassed 800 career points. Peters is also the team leader in rebounds with 6.1 rebounds per game. In addition to Peters, another double figure scorer is freshman guard Trevonon Walker who is averaging 10.5 points per game. Lastly, the Panthers need to be aware of Victor Nickerson who scored ten points in Friday nights loss to Green Bay.
The keys to winning this game beyond the strong second half are that the Panthers need to get this game to the point that the second half is a worthy discussion. The way for the Panthers to do that is they must control the rebounding battle in this game. Valpo has out rebounded opponents by double figures on ten different occasions this season. Valpo has the best rebounding margin in the conference at positive 8.4.If the Panthers are going to win this game, winning the rebounding battle might be the first prerequisite as Vaplo has only lost the rebounding battle on two occasions this seasons. The Crusaders lost both games to New Mexico and to Missouri.

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