Three takeaways from Milwaukee’s win over UW-Parkside

After eight months of waiting, the season is officially here for the Milwaukee Panthers men’s basketball team as they took the floor for the first time Thursday night, hosting UW-Parkside in an exhibition game. The Panthers ended up defeating the Rangers, 81-62. Here are three takeaways from Milwaukee’s final tune-up before the regular season gets underway.

#1:Jordan Johnson looks more than ready to lead at point

Coming into the year, one of the biggest question marks for Milwaukee was who was going to fill the void that former Panther Steve McWhorter left at point guard. Many would have thought the starting role was going to go to sophomore Justin Jordan due to the experience he gained last year, but after tonight’s performance Jordan Johnson seems to be a lock at the point guard position.

Johnson finished the game with 13 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds, while only committing two turnovers in 32 minutes of play. Johnson said afterwards that he loves doing a little bit of everything; especially rebounding, which isn’t common among point guards. He was able to show off his scoring ability by finishing at the rim on numerous occasions, while also stepping back and hitting a few mid-range jump shots. While the competition wasn’t at its highest, Johnson seems to have a firm grasp on what is expected out of him this year leading the Panthers’ offense.

#2:Panthers need major improvements defensively

If Milwaukee has any shot at making the NCAA tournament this year, they will have to improve defensively. Parkside finished the game shooting 47 percent overall and even won the second half by four points. There were many times where they were able to get past their defenders and score easily at the rim without any help. Although the Panthers were playing without their main rim protector, JJ Panoske, giving up so many easy buckets to an opponent like Parkside is concerning heading into the first game of the season.

Along with easy drives to the basket, Parkside was able to score mainly because of the lack of communication on screens from Milwaukee. The Panthers were getting beat all night on ball and flex screens resulting in easy lay-ups for the Rangers. Although this was just an exhibition game, Milwaukee showed tonight that they have some work to do defensively.

#3:Three point shooting will be key to success

If Thursday night proved anything, it’s that Milwaukee will be very hard to beat if they are knocking down their three point shots. They finished the night shooting 48 percent from distance (13-of-27) with Matt Tiby leading the way making all five of his attempts. Five other players knocked down at least one three-point attempt as well. Milwaukee shot an impressive 50 percent (10-of-20) from three in the first half, which helped them gain a 23-point advantage after the first twenty minutes.

Austin Arians, who is Milwaukee’s main three-point threat, played in his first game since suffering an ankle injury last season that kept him out until it made better sense to redshirt the year. With Arians back, the Panthers should be able to finish as one of the best three-point shooting teams in the Horizon League. All five starters (including Panoske), along with a few reserves, are capable of hitting outside shots, which will be a huge advantage this season. If they are able to find a balance between perimeter shooting, while also having a solid low post presence, they should be able to surprise a lot of people this year.

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