Panthers eager to taste home cooking

The Milwaukee Panthers opened the season with one of the more brutal schedules of any college basketball team in the country. The Panthers opened the season playing seven of the first eight games on the road while spanning four states in the opening 13 days of the season. Having had a week to gather themselves they will now embark on a portion of the schedule that will now see them play five of seven at home with the only road games between now and early January being road trips to Madison and Minnesota. The Panthers will begin the home favorable portion of the schedule Thursday night against the SIU Edwardsville Cougars.

The Panthers have performed well at home over the past year plus. The Panthers went 11-4 on their home floor over the past 15 games including winning eight of nine. During that period of games the Panthers have shot quite well averaging over 70 points per game and shooting over 47% on all field goal attempts and over 42% on all three point attempts. A common denominator between all of the contending teams in college basketball for conference titles is they all do a good to great job of protecting their home floor so the run of success at home bodes well for the Panthers in the future.
The Cougars enter Panther arena with a record of 1-5 including an active five game losing streak. In the Cougars most recent game, they were blown out by the Green Bay Phoenix. The game was controlled by Green Bay who had a 26 point half time lead. Entering this game there are a couple of percentages that the Panthers should be aware of. The Cougars are only hitting just over 27% of their three point attempts for the season. So from a defensive perspective the Panthers should set their defense to defend against two point shots.
Then if the Cougars prove they are hot from long range make adjustments in order to take away the three. If they hit at similar percentage as they have this season the Panthers should work to make their two point shots as difficult as possible. The Cougars also only hit just over 69% on free throw attempts. The interior Panther’s defenders should be aware of this percentage. If you get in a situation of allowing an easy two or committing a hard clean foul the better way to go this game might be the hard clean foul since the Cougars are not a strong free throw shooting team.
The Cougars offense is reasonably balanced. Junior Guard Burak Eslik averages over 13 points per game. He takes a lot of shots, especially when the Cougars are behind. He attempted 17 shots in the blowout loss to Green Bay. Their other scorer is Center Grant Fiorentinos who is also averaging over 13 points per game. Fiorentinos comes off the Cougar bench but he plays minutes equivalent to those of a starter.  He strictly a block to block player. Most of his shots are close to the basket as he has made 62% of his shots so far this season but he has not attempted a three point shot.
The number one offensive focus for the Panthers should be to get out to a fast start. The Cougars were blown out at home in their most recent outing and they are clearly trying to get their feet under themselves under first year coach Jon Harris. Harris is the second youngest first year head coach and the tenth youngest head coach in Division I. The last the thing the Panthers want to do is provide the Cougars and their new young coach a reason for hope Thursday night.

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