Defense can’t continue awful run

Thursday night, in an impressive display of offensive efficiency, the Milwaukee Panthers finally let go of their need to incessantly bomb three-pointers for long stretches in a basketball game. Adding efficiency to the potency of their offensive game, the Panthers were able to run away with the game. The defense came through yet again, holding the Wright State Raiders to their season average of 44.7% from the field and 37.7% from three, leading to a Milwaukee

Wait…you’re saying the Panthers didn’t blow out Wright State? They lost? But they shot something 9-for-18 from three. They continued to kill from inside the arc, and they didn’t even shoot too many threes to begin with.

The truth is, Milwaukee doesn’t play defense very well, and the Horizon League has shown that the problems are glaring.

Here’s a table of the Panthers’ Horizon League opponents and their shooting percentages against their season shooting. The numbers…aren’t good:

Team (at) Game FG% Season FG% Margin Game 3PT% Season 3PT% Margin
Wright State (@MKE) 51.70% 44.70% 7 45% 37.70% 7.3
Wright State (@WSU) 56% 44.70% 11.3 57.90% 37.70% 20.2
Northern Kentucky (@MKE) 37.50% 44.90% -7.4 25% 35% -10
Cleveland State (@CSU) 51.90% 41.30% 10.6 41.20% 31.50% 9.7
Youngstown State (@YSU) 42.40% 42.30% 0.1 42.90% 36.50% 6.4
Detroit (@MKE) 47.20% 46.30% 0.9 44.40% 39% 5.4
Oakland (@MKE) 45.80% 45.90% -0.1 64.70% 39.70% 25
Valparaiso @VU) 50% 44.70% 5.3 31.30% 35.70% -4.4
UIC (@UIC) 42.90% 39% 3.9 57.10% 30.40% 26.7
Green Bay (@MKE) 63.30% 45.40% 17.9 43.80% 36.40% 7.4
Milwaukee HL Opponents 4.95% 9.37%

As you can see, Milwaukee played most of the first 10 games of the Horizon League schedule with a porous defense, killing the chance for the Black and Gold to take the lead going into the second half of the season. Incredibly, the worst game for Milwaukee was last week’s victory against Green Bay. The Phoenix shot 63.3% against the Panthers due to a second-half field goal percentage that came close to 80% with only a few minutes remaining.

On average, Horizon League teams shoot almost 5% better against the Panthers from the field than their season average. They shoot 9.37% better than their current season average from three, an incredibly huge number. What does this mean?

Milwaukee’s defense is pretty bad. Their perimeter defense is incredibly bad.

Only Detroit and Youngstown State give up a higher field goal percentage than the Panthers. Even though they’re eighth, the Panthers are only half a percentage point away from tenth.

From three, Milwaukee is second-to-none. Panther opponents shoot 2.4% better against Milwaukee than they do against the second-worst perimeter defense, Green Bay.

These are bad numbers. They’d be worse if the Panthers didn’t have their January home tilt with tonight’s opponent, Northern Kentucky. The Norse started hot, going up 9-0 before the game really got going. The rest of the game, the Panthers shut them down, to the point where they shot 10% worse than their current season average from three and 7.4% worse than their overall season field goal percentage.

Besides that game, only twice have the Panthers held one percentage or the other below the opponent’s season average. Oakland finished one-tenth of a percentage point below their season average, and Valparaiso shot 4.4% under their season average from three. Besides that, every single Panthers opponent shot better than their season average from both three and overall.

If Milwaukee is going to turn this season around – and though they’re 15-8 and 5-4, they could be SO MUCH better – they’re going to need to play tough, hard-nosed defense.

They’re going to have to spend February figuring out how to play defense, or they’ll spend a lot more of March than they’d like watching other teams dance.

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