Friday, June 21, 2024
Fantasy Guru - Baseball

MBB-FCS: Wisconsin Milwaukee Panthers (14-7) at Northern Kentucky Norse (14-8)

One game after getting bumped out of first place in the Horizon League standings, the Milwaukee men’s basketball team has the opportunity to claw its way back into a tie atop the conference when it travels to battle Northern Kentucky this weekend. The matchup against the Norse is set to tip off at 3 p.m. CST on ESPN+ and Bally Sports Ohio – as well as scheduled to be shown on Bally Sports Wisconsin – and will have live statistics available. It will also feature the “Educators Credit Union Milwaukee Panther Men’s Basketball Radio Broadcast”, which airs on 101.7 FM The Truth and streaming services. Scott Warras is on the call for his seventh season as the voice of the Panthers and all links are posted on the MKE website.

Northern Kentucky went 20-12 a season ago, finishing 14-6 in regular-season Horizon League play before falling to Wright State in the tournament championship. NKU returns a mix of experience and youth in 2022-23 and started the season #19 in the Mid-Major Top 25 Preseason Poll. The Norse were also picked in a tie for the top spot in the Horizon League preseason poll, marking the first time in program history to accomplish that feat. Marques Warrick, Trevon Faulkner and Sam Vinson were all selected to the All-League teams as well, with fourth-year head coach Darin Horn leading the way.

The team will come into play Saturday – which is also homecoming at NKU – at 14-8 overall and now in first place by themselves at 9-2 in conference play. The only losses have been to Oakland (64-63 Jan. 6) and to the Panthers (80-75 Jan. 12) in the first meeting this winter. Warrick is having a strong season, leading the team and standing third in the league with his 19.1 ppg scoring average while shooting .388 from distance and .773 from the line. Vinson is second on the squad at 10.7 points per game and adds 3.9 rebounds per contest.

Milwaukee is 5-12 all-time against Northern Kentucky, all coming since NKU joined the Horizon League. The series has not gone the Panthers way of late, with the 61-55 victory January 1 of last season snapping what was a 10-game winning streak by the Norse. The win 16 days ago does give Milwaukee two victories in the past three matchups.

Milwaukee put together an impressive comeback effort before running out of time in the closing stages of the contest, falling to Wright State, 93-86, Thursday at the Nutter Center.

The Panthers (14-7, 8-3 Horizon League) gave it quite a go against the Raiders (12-10, 5-6 Horizon League) after intermission, scoring the fourth-most points (60) in a second half in school history in cutting a 24-point deficit down to just five with one minute left. WSU would ice it at the line from there, however, making 7-of-8 free throws over the final 54 seconds to thwart the solid comeback effort.

BJ Freeman led the way again for Milwaukee, scoring a game-high 26 points to become the first Panther to score 20-or-more in five straight games since December of 2002. He connected on 9-of-20 shots overall and made five more 3-pointers, adding three steals.

Justin Thomas added 17 points – all coming in the second half – while contributing three rebounds, three steals, and a career-best three blocks in the contest.

Zach Howell came off the bench to add his second double-digit scoring effort of the season, finishing with 11 points, helped along by a trio of shots from deep.

The Panthers head into play Saturday at 8-3 in league play to mark their best opening to a conference slate since the 2008-09 campaign. That season, Milwaukee started 8-3 through 11 games before moving to 9-3 with a win in their next outing. This season, the Panthers began receiving votes in the Mid-Major Top 25 poll Jan. 9 and, starting this week, are now back and ranked in the poll itself. MKE checked in at No. 20 this week, the first time in the Mid-Major poll since January of 2012, when it held the spot of #23 that poll.

Opening the Horizon League schedule with five of the first six games on the road was also a daunting task for any team. The Panthers responded in impressive fashion, posting a 5-1 start through that stretch – topping a Detroit Mercy team they hadn’t beaten since February of 2018, a Cleveland State squad they had only defeated once since 2019, a Purdue Fort Wayne program they had never knocked off prior to this season (0-5 all-time), and then defeated a Norse squad that had won 10 of the past 11 in the all-time series.

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