Wounded Panthers soldier on

There is both good and bad news as the Milwaukee Panthers prepare for their Horizon League home opener at Milwaukee Panther Arena on Friday night. The good news is the Panthers are finally home from a season long five-game road trip. The bad news sadly outweighs the good however. The Panthers lost all five games on the road swing and struggled significantly on both ends of the floor in doing so. Add onto that the Panthers will be dealing with an interstate foe who will most likely be playing with some extra intensity trying to prove a point to the Panthers after Milwaukee beat Green Bay last season in two of three meetings including knocking them out on their home floor in the tournament.
The Panthers have had equal troubles on both ends of the floor on the recently completed road swing. The Panthers have not cracked 70 points in any of the last five games while allowing over 80 in the last four consecutive games. Both of these trends need to be addressed for the Panthers to break their losing streak.
The Green Bay Phoenix (12-3) might be the last team that a team in the above condition may want to see coming. The Phoenix are again picked in the preseason poll to win the conference title and they are again led by preseason conference player of the year selection Keifer Sykes  who is again leading the team in scoring with 17.9 points per game. As we saw first hand last season, Sykes is a talented player. He can hit short and long range jumpers but he is most dangerous when he is able to either split defenders and get to the rim and score himself or split defenders and get in the paint and find teammates who end up scoring.
The Phoenix are far from a one man show however. In a recent game earlier this week against Wright State, the Phoenix showed how they are able to all play well around Sykes as during one stretch of the game, junior Jordan Fouse assisted on five consecutive baskets that Sykes scored on. In the game, Fouse recorded a near triple double (16 points, 15 rebounds and 9 assists). Green Bay uses a seven to eight man rotation and relies heavily on their starters.
Even though the Panthers are back at home this game is going to be a challenge for them to win for several reasons. The Panthers are not playing well on either end of the floor. Green Bay might be the best team in the conference. Lastly Green Bay is going to come into this game looking to settle a score from last season. The Panthers need to match Green Bay’s intensity level and keep Sykes from controlling this game in order to have a chance at their first conference victory of the season.

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