Panthers look to send seniors out winners

Every senior in college basketball dreams of leading their team through a conference tournament and into the NCAA tournament in their final season with a particular program. Steve McWhorter has therefore been tasked with an interesting assignment this season. Provide leadership to a team that from a postseason perspective can go no where this season. Against that backdrop McWhorter has not blinked but rather has put together arguably his best season in a Panthers uniform. McWhorter averaged 7.8 points per game last season but has almost doubled that to 14.3 points per game this season. The Panthers floor general is also the team leader in assists and second on the team in rebounding behind Matt Tiby. He has started in every one of the 62 games he has appeared in for the Panthers and has scored in double figures on 36 occasions. The Panthers have a 22-14 record in those games. McWhorter has also done a good job of being the Panthers floor general in posting a 2.62 assist to turnover ratio over the past 12 games. McWhorter had 21 points, six rebounds, three assists and one steal in the Panthers road victory over UIC on Thursday night. The 21 points tied a career high for McWhorter who will lead the Panthers on to their home floor one final time this season in a senior day game against Cleveland State Sunday afternoon. McWhorter and fellow senior Evan Richard will be honored for their contributions to the program prior to Sunday’s game.

Cleveland State enters into Sunday’s game with a 11-3 conference record and they are currently one game in the loss column behind Valpo for the conference lead and number one seed in the upcoming Horizon league tournament. Cleveland State has won three of their last four games including a very important 66-61 overtime win over Green Bay on Friday night to keep them within striking distance of the top spot in the conference. The Vikings defeated the Panthers 84-57 in the first match-up of the season. In that game junior guard Trey Lewis led all scorer with 27 points. Three of the Vikings five starters scored in double figures with Anton Grady, Lewis and Charlie Lee all scoring 16 points or more. The Vikings had similar scoring production from all three individuals in Friday night’s win over Green Bay. The Panthers need to focus on limiting the production of all three players in order for the Panthers to win on senior day.

This game is important from the perspective of both teams as the Vikings still have an outside shot at the league title and the Panthers need to win their last home game as a spring board toward next season and to continue a trend of playing well at home this year in winning five of six home contests. The start of this game is going to be critical to the Panthers ultimate success in this game for several reasons. From the Panthers perspective, senior nigh last season went bad from the beginning in an embarrassing loss to the UIC Flames by 22 points. In order to avoid a repeat of last season the Panthers would do themselves well to not even start down that road. Secondly, Cleveland State may come into this game a little flat and tired. They are coming off an overtime win where they played all of their starters for 35 minutes or more. Therefore the Panthers should be the fresher team if they are able to keep the game close deep into the second half. If the Panthers are able to do they will have a decent chance to send their seniors out victorious

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