PantherU

Panthers face toughest opponent yet

On Thursday night the Milwaukee Panthers will be on a crusade to take down the Valparaiso Crusaders in the toughest game of their four-game road trip. Last week Tiby was named to the mid-season watch list for the Lou Henson Award, an award given to the top mid-major player in the country. Tiby is on the list for the second consecutive season as he leads the Panthers in both points and rebounds. Tiby will find competition for that award in Valpo’s Alec Peters.
Peters is the centerpiece to a Crusader team that was voted the preseason conference favorite. They have a record of 13-3 and they have won their three Horizon league games so far by an average of 21 points. Peters is having a solid season averaging 17.9 points per game and 7.9 rebounds per game.
He has taken his play to another level since his team has started conference play upping those averages to 22 points per game and 11.3 rebounds per game. Those averages have earned him conference player of the week honors.
In a game last week against Detroit he literally took the game over, scoring 39 points, 14 rebounds. In that game he hit 40% of his three point attempts and all 11 of his free throws.
He is only the third Division I player to post 39 points and 14 rebounds this season. The only other two players to accomplish that feat are Brice Johnson of North Carolina and Ben Simmons of LSU. The Panthers likely will not be able to eliminate his impact on games but they must reduce it.
The best way to try and accomplish this is to try and get him in foul problems so that the Crusaders have to take him off the floor. If he is allowed to remain on the floor for his regular number of minutes he will likely cause significant problems for the Panthers.
The other main offensive player for the Crusaders is sophomore guard Tevonn Walker. He is averaging 13.3 points per game but he has scored over 20 points in each of his last two games. He is an emerging shooter from long range as he hit six of eight three pointers last week against Oakland. The rest of the Valpo roster is filled with role players who fill a particular role around Peters and Walker.
Valpo has one of the more dominant home court advantages of any team in the country. They have equaled a program record with 20 consecutive home victories. This mark was set in their first conference home game of the season.
They have not lost at home since December 6, 2014. What is equally impressive is how the streak was built. 12 of the 20 wins have been by double digits and nine of the 20 have been by a minimum of 20 points.     
As if facing Peters and one of the most dominant home court teams in the country is not enough the Panthers will also need to navigate one of the stingiest defenses in the country. The Crusaders allow just 59.3 points per game. The have held opponents under 60 points on nine occasions and under 50 points on four occasions. They hold opponents to 37% shooting and that is the eighth best percentage in the country. The Panthers cannot afford to get three happy in this game. If they do, Valpo will make for a long offensive night.
This game features the number one and number two teams in the Horizon League standings. They are two of the most experienced teams in the conference. The Panthers will need their best effort of the season in order to take down Valpo but this will be the type of game where the benefits of playing a difficult schedule in difficult venues can be shown.

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