Panthers' First Season Win

The UWM men's basketball team prevailed in its first season game last fall.

The UWM Men’s Basketball team held off a strong effort from Cardinal Stritch in an exhibition game to win their first game of the season, 74-72. 

Contribution by many may be the theme of the night regarding UWM's first game of the season.

The Panthers played Cardinal Stritch University, in the NAIA, essentially a Division 2 team. Many teams schedule exhibition games against lesser opponents as a tune-up game. It gets the players into the feel of playing actual games again.

CSU went 22-8 last season, and underwent a coaching change for this year. The cousin of former Marquette basketball star Travis Diener, Drew Diener, took over the reins at Cardinal Stritch this season.

Milwaukee seniors Tone Boyle, and James Eayrs had been selected to the preseason All-Horizon League Team. This game was supposed to be a showcase of what those two could bring to the table this year for the Panthers.

UWM Senior Forward James Eayrs was asked whether or not there was any additional pressure put on him by the pre-season recognition. He said, “No, not really. I’m just going to go out, and play my game just like last year.”

Unfortunately for the team, Boyle missed the game with an injury. Also missing the game due to injury was Senior guard Ricky Franklin.

When asked how big of a deal it was to be playing without big contributors due to injury, UWM Assistant Coach Duffy Conroy said it was tough.

“Ricky Franklin is our quarterback, and it’s hard sometimes to adjust without having your quarterback on the floor,” said Conroy. “We had seven guys out on the floor yesterday that had never played a college basketball game for us.”

With two of the three main scorers out for the Panthers, the team had to rely on contribution by many. That's just what they got, as six players each had over seven points for UWM.

Leading the way for the Panthers was Senior James Eayrs. Even though he stated that he was going to be more defensive minded this year, he managed to score 20 points, and added 10 rebounds to go along with it.

Meanwhile for CSU, they had three players each score over 17 points. Kody Braddix was the top scorer for CSU with 28 points in 38 minutes.

Milwaukee showcased what appeared to be a seven-man rotation, as only two players got more than 10 minutes off the bench. Fouls were not to be overlooked on this night, as it played a key component in how the game ended.

Turnovers were also a big problem for Milwaukee, as they wound up with a total of 22 to end the game.

Frustration regarding foul calling was mounting for CSU coach Drew Diener, as with eight minutes to go in the first half, he threw his water bottle up in the air in disgust. Just four minutes later, a technical foul was called on the Cardinal Stritch bench, due to the coach further expressing his frustration with foul calling.

CSU led the Panthers at halftime by a score of 39-34. Milwaukee shot just 35 percent in the first half. It seemed as if CSU had all the momentum going into halftime.

With the second half just about to start, CSU coach Drew Diener came slowly walking out of the tunnel down to the court area. He had an extremely confident look on his face, and was ever so casually sipping from his water bottle as he walked towards his players.

Perhaps it was an attempt to get his players to continue to believe they could pull off the upset. With a five point lead at halftime, and his team performing well, there was no reason for him not to feel confident.

Cardinal Stritch came out fired up in the second half once again, playing very good defense on route to forcing 12 second half turnovers.

But the difference in the second half was UWM's ability to shoot the basketball. The Panthers shot 50 percent in the second half, and had finally found their stroke.
Back and forth the lead went through the second half, as the teams seemed to be trading baskets.

The CSU bench was called for their second technical foul of the game, with just over nine minutes to go in the second half. The two technical fouls on the CSU bench wound up being costly, as it cost Cardinal Stritch two points in the end.

• UWM had a 71-70 lead with 26 seconds left in the game. UWM Senior Jason Averkamp was fouled off of the inbounds pass to put him on the free throw line, but he only wound up hitting one free throw.

• He missed the second shot, and UWM got the ball back. Freshman Riley Walker was sent to the free throw line, where he too made just one shot. It gave the Panthers a 73-70 lead with 22 seconds to play.

• Instead of waiting for the last second and shooting a three, Brandon D'Amico of Cardinal Stritch made a layup to cut the lead to 73-72 with nine seconds to play in the game.
• Junior UWM guard Deonte Roberts was sent to the free throw line, and made just one shot. His basket put the lead up to 74-72.
• This gave Cardinal Stritch one last chance with a few seconds left. Kody Braddix got the ball for CSU, and shot a deep jump shot, which missed, giving UWM the victory, 74-72.

Travis Wacker, a Junior at UWM and fan of Milwaukee basketball said that he really was surprised at how well CSU played. “They were just flying all over the court. It was just a pesky defense and Stritch looked good. I didn't really expect that out of them.”

The Panthers have to be thankful that this was just an exhibition game. But if they can get players back from injury, James Eayrs believes that this team can go somewhere. 

“I think we have a veteran squad coming back here, and we've got some injuries right now. But I think they'll take care of themselves, and come back and help us out here." 

However the Panthers wind up doing this season, you can be sure that injuries and turnovers will be a key component to the amount of success they have.
 

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