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Panthers strive to be complete against Coyotes

In college basketball, head coaches often talk about trying to strive to put a ‘complete team’ on the floor – the idea that a ‘complete team’ is the best bet to win a basketball game on any given night. Those same coaches will tell you that their players will never form a ‘complete team,’ but they strive for it anyway.
Complete teams have versatility to win games through a wide variety of styles and through many contributing pieces in order to achieve success. The Milwaukee Panthers are pointing down that path towards being the best team they can be – as complete as possible.
Last Wednesday the Panthers took down the Badgers for the first time at the Kohl Center by employing commanding defense.
Milwaukee forced the Badgers to miss 11 of their final 14 shots in the first half and 10 of their first 14 in the second half. Over that stretch, the Badgers shot 7-for-28. During that time period the Panthers were able to work their way back into the game after being down by as many as 15 points in the first half. The Badgers shot an equally cold 29% in the second half. Sure, some of those shots were reasonably open, but when defenses are rotating and communicating properly as the Panthers were, you sometimes get the good fortune of teams missing open shots.
Sometimes in college basketball it is better to be lucky than good but very rarely do you find teams that are not good getting lucky. The Panthers have taken significant strides defensively from the span of the golf coast showcase to Wednesday night at the Kohl Center. Evidence of that improvement can be found in in this sequence: over the game’s final minutes, the Panthers held the Badgers to one made field goal and four free throws over a ten possession period that ended with the Koenig three pointer with under 30 seconds left.
The Panthers did as good of an individual defensive job as they did collective. Jordan Johnson scored 22 points but his greatest effort of the night was defensively on Koenig. Badgers outside of Ethan Happ and Nigel Hayes combined to shoot eight of 31. That includes Koenig who had as many shots as points with 16 each. That is a tremendous effort by Johnson against one of the best point guards in the Big Ten.
All of that is great but it amounts to a nice foot note unless you win the game. So following two clutch free throws from Akeem Springs and the desperation three from Koenig, the Panthers needed a good inbound and a couple more made free throws to put the Badgers away. Instead the Panthers had issues with the Badgers press resulting a turnover. Great defenses are defined in how they perform when games are on the line.
So up by one the Panthers used a combination of great coaching and great defensive execution to take down the Badgers. The great coaching portion occurred in inserting Brett Prahl into the game and putting him on Koenig on the game’s final two possessions. Putting the greater length of Prahl on Koenig was a way of disrupting the final shot. The defensive execution on the final play was also excellent. Koenig wanted to take the ball to the basket and either convert or draw a foul. The Panthers however did a good job of clogging the lane and obstructing his path to the basket. Then Prahl contested the final shot, forcing the step back three that rimmed out.
The Panthers rewrote several long standing school records Sunday against Judson, including point in a half and points in a game. They also tied the school record for assists. Yes the competition on Sunday was inferior but the principles behind what the Panthers accomplished need not be a one-day occurrence. The Panthers shot over 60% on field goals and over 55% on three pointers. The Panthers had assists on 32 of their 47 field goals.
When the Panthers move the ball unselfishly in the manner they did on Sunday an extremely talented offense becomes even more dangerous. The Panthers also are demonstrating that they have the ability to have anywhere between seven to eight people per night go off for between 15 and 20 points. Determining who those particular individuals are in any given game is a defense’s worst nightmare and biggest problem. That characteristic will cause the Panthers to be an extremely difficult team to prepare for as the conference season quickly approaches.
Teams that have the ability to win by shutting teams down or by lighting up the scoreboard, by quieting an opponent’s best player or getting a huge night from their own, are not only hard to prepare for but those teams typically win a lot of games. The Panthers are on the road to becoming that complete of a team. They will have another opportunity to demonstrate that on Thursday night at Panther Arena against the South Dakota Coyotes of the Summit Conference. The Coyotes have already defeated the Minnesota Golden Gophers who the Panthers will see next week.

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