Panthers look to regain swagger

The Milwaukee Panthers lost a tough hard fought heartbreaking game to Murray State on Monday in the opening round of the Gulf Coast Classic. The Panthers played a solid first half but saw a seven point half time lead disappear behind a combination of cold shooting, 14 turnovers and some defensive rebounding issues in the proved to be costly for the Panthers. This was a rough day offensively for the Panthers. Against Notre Dame last week the Panthers had 21 assists to 12 turnovers. Compare that to Monday against the Racers when the Panthers had 13 assists and 14 turnovers. Anytime you have more turnovers than assists it is going to be difficult to win.
With that being said, the Panthers did positive things on Monday. It is encouraging that the Panthers can have that rough of day on offense and still have an opportunity to win the game. The Panthers were a Jordan Johnson three point attempt away from forcing overtime but his attempt was ruled late following a replay review. The timing of Johnson’s attempt was thrown off by a deflection that forced him to regather the ball. The good news is the Panthers had an opportunity to win despite not playing their best but the Panthers had a few to many turnovers and a critical missed defensive rebound to defeat the Racers. Now the Panthers will look to quickly turn the page in the consolation bracket on Tuesday morning against the Duquesne Dukes who lost their opening round game on Monday to Pepperdine.
The Dukes have many scoring options and have been doing a lot of damage from three point range so far this season. Senior Guard Micah Mason is the most accurate three point shooter in NCAA history. He has hit over 49% of his career three point attempts and has at least one made three in 53 of the 56 games he has played for the Dukes. The Panthers have to be aware of his three point capabilities and not let him get confidence early in his shot. Defensively you can’t allow him clean catch and shoot opportunities. You have to force him to catch and then dribble a time or two before shooting. He has hit six threes in a game already this season but he can be defended as only had three points on 1/7 on three point attempts in the opening round loss to Pepperdine. The Dukes as a team are very comfortable shooting from long range. In a recent win over Penn State the Dukes shot a school record from three point range by hitting 17 of 34 three point attempts. Mason shares the backcourt with fellow senior Derrick Colter who is also shooting 40% on three point attempts. Colter also made six three pointers against Penn State and scored 26 points. So far this season, Colter and Mason have combined to average close to 40 points per game. While these two cover most of the offensive damage, the Dukes have six players on their roster who average seven points a game or better heading into the Gulf Coast Classic.
I think this is a big mental game for the Panthers as opposed to a physical game. Monday’s loss was toward the heart break side of the spectrum. The Panthers need to be ready to go mentally on Tuesday just as much as they are physically. The second half and ending to the game were disappointing. The Panthers need to be mentally strong enough to flush that game out of their minds and get ready to play again with a clear head. The objective for Tuesday is to not let one disappointing loss turn to two by still mentally reliving what happened the previous day.

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