Panthers Step Out Of League Play To Face IPFW
Feb. 9, 2005
FT. WAYNE, IND. -
* UWM vs. IPFW--Round One
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee women's basketball team will step out of the comforts of the Horizon League season on Thursday (Feb. 10) when it faces IPFW in a 5 p.m. contest. The game will be held at Ft. Wayne's Memorial Coliseum as the first-half of an IPFW men's/women's doubleheader. The contest will also mark the return game of last season's battle in Milwaukee which saw the Panthers claim an 87-67 victory at the U.S. Cellular Arena. The Mastodons of IPFW are still new to the Division I ranks and, much like South Dakota State, are competing as an independent in 2004-05.
* Scouting the Mastodons
The Mastodons of IPFW have struggled since their transition into Division I and this season has been no different. IPFW is currently 2-18 on the season and has lost its last 10 games since a one-point victory over IUPUI on Dec. 23. However, the Mastodons have played some Horizon League opponents tough, dropping a two-point decision at Butler on Dec. 21 and falling to Detroit by only eight points on Jan. 5. IPFW's other win this season came with a 77-68 triumph over Akron on Dec. 2. IPFW prefers an uptempo, wide-open game as evidenced by 516 total three-point attempts. IPFW is scoring 60.5 points per game but giving up 80.5 per contest. Rebounding has been an issue for the Dons who have a -11.5 rebound margin on the season. A pair of young guards lead IPFW as sophomore Ashley Johnson and freshman Johnna Lewis-Carlisle average 10.2 points per game each. Seniors Courtney Nicley and Verea Bibbs also contribute offensively with 9.1 and 8.7 ppg respectively. IPFW is coached by fourth-year head man Bruce Patterson who is 23-80 at IPFW but 269-181 all-time as a head coach.
* Last Time Out-UWM Wears Down Titans
It took awhile, but the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee women's basketball team used superior depth to eventually wear down Detroit en route to a 60-46 Horizon League victory last Thursday (Feb. 5). The Panthers struggled in the early going and fell behind by two, 29-27, at the half but quickly raced out to an eight point lead in the early moments of the second half before cruising to the 14-point win. The win helped the Panthers sweep the season-series from the Titans as UWM claimed an exciting 74-73 overtime victory in Detroit earlier in the season. Teri Huff led Milwaukee with 15 points while Molly O'Brien added 14 markers and a game-high 11 rebounds. Lindsay Pasquinzo led all scorers with 18 points.
* Offensive Threat Times Four
The 2004-05 UWM women's basketball team is looking to do something the program has never done before. That thing, have four players finish the season averaging double-figures in points. After Thursday's victory over Detroit Milwaukee now has four players averaging 10.0 points or more on the season. Nichole Drummond leads the way with 13.0 ppg followed by Teri Huff's 10.5 ppg. Meanwhile Kimberly Becker and Molly O'Brien have both scored exactly 209 points this year for a 10.0 ppg average. Five different players have led the team in scoring in a single game this year led by Drummond who has performed the feat 10 times. Huff and Becker have led the team in scoring on four occasions each while Molly O'Brien has done so once and sophomore guard Aubrey Hampton doing so one time.
* Last Of A Tough Road
You can't blame the UWM women's basketball team for looking forward to the end of the non-league portion if its schedule. Thanks to a difficult slate of games in 2004-05 the Panthers have posted just a 3-7 record in its 10 previous non-league games this year. Of course, when you play three Big Ten Conference opponents, two nationally-ranked foes and several other regional powers the numbers might take a hit. Milwaukee is getting outscored 69.2 to 61.7 in non-league games to go with a -4.4 rebound margin. Furthermore, the Panthers have struggled offensively versus foes from outside the loop where they have shot just 37.1% overall and 27.4% from three-point land to go with 20.5 turnovers per ballgame.
* A Month To Remember
Peaking at the end of the season. It's certainly what all coaches want from their teams and something Sandy Botham has grown accustomed to seeing from her Milwaukee teams of late. With the calendar now turning to February it is time for the stretch run of the regular season. UWM has excelled in the shortest month of the year going 27-4 in the month of February over the last four-plus seasons. Milwaukee has lost just once in February in each of the last four years with all four losses coming on the road. The Panthers are even more dominant at home as they have won 19 straight regular season home games in the month of February.
* The 70-Point Plateau
Much like Thursday, if you're a fan of the Milwaukee women's basketball program and you see the team reach the 70-point plateau, chances are you will see a UWM victory. During the nine-year Sandy Botham ere the 70-point number has become synonymous with success. The Panthers, who have scored 70+ points in four of their last seven games and six times overall this season, are 5-1 on the year when reaching the magic number. In the past five seasons UWM is 42-5 when scoring at least 70 points in a game while never losing more than once in a season when reaching that target. The Panthers were 5-1 last season when scoring 70 points, 8-1 in 2002-03 and 25-1 during the 2000-2002 seasons. During Botham's nine-year career Milwaukee is 71-15 all-time when scoring at least 70 points in a game.
* Secret To Success
Hopefully this won't come as a major to surprise to followers of the UWM women's hoops team. But if one is looking for one major secret to the team's 5-1 record in its last six games then they need to look no further than the shooting numbers. The Panthers, who are shooting 39.6% overall for the season and 31.6% from the three-point line have been torching the nets of late. Milwaukee is connecting on 46.0% of its shots overall during the six-game stretch to go with a very impressive 39.6% clip from beyond the arc. Three different Panthers (Molly O'Brien, Teri Huff and Megan Rogers) are shooting over 50.0% from the field during that time with four players (O'Brien, Rogers, Nichole Drummond and Aubrey Hampton) all shooting over 40.0% from downtown.
* Making Most Of Nailbiters
Playing close games hasn't been a problem for the experienced UWM women's basketball team. Following Thursday nights victory at Wright State, the Panthers are a perfect 6-0 so far this season when games are decided by five or less points to go with a 1-0 record in overtime. Milwaukee defeated Columbia 63-59 for the first victory of the season before claiming a 69-64 win at Oakland for its first road victory of the season. The Panthers held on for five point victories at home over Cleveland State and Butler in league action before posting impressive close victories at Detroit and WSU in consecutive weeks. Milwaukee is 34-26 all-time under Sandy Botham in games decided by five points or less and 5-5 in overtime games.
* S.W.A.T. Team
The 2004-05 UWM women's basketball team will never be confused with the late 1990's Houston Rockets but the Panthers have become more prolific rejecting shots as the season wears on. While the Panthers are averaging just 2.3 blocked shots per contest on the season, it is a number that has seen a pretty dramatic jump of late. Milwaukee has blocked 20 shots in the last four games, including six swats versus Wright State and five more versus Detroit. Senior center Kimberly Becker has rejected five shots in the four game span with reserve Anne Witte returning three shots to its sender in the last four games. Meanwhile Teri Huff, Molly O'Brien, and Nichole Drummond have swatted two shots apieace in the last four games.
* Panthers Pressure Player
Note to all UWM opponents: If you want someone to foul late in the game you might want to stay away from Aubrey Hampton. The 5-6 sophomore guard is UWM's primary ballhander and a coaches dream late in the game. An excellent free throw shooter overall, Hampton really excels in late-game pressure situations. The Oak Park-native nailed four free throws in the final 30 seconds of Thursday's win, continuing her excellence in final minute charties. For her career the 81.8% free throw shooter is 21-for-22 alltime from the charity stripe in the final minute of a game, including 12-for-13 marksmanship this season. If you extend it out to the final two minutes of games, the sophomore is an impressive 27-for-28 all-time, good for 96.4%. Hampton's only miss in late game situations came when she misfired on one-of-three free throws at UIC on Jan. 17.
* Senior Forwards Step Up
After playing in the shadows of two-time Horizon League Player of the Year Maria Viall for three seasons you can't blame Teri Huff and Kimberly Becker for wanting some of the spotlight this season. And after 21 games into their final campaigns in Milwaukee the two post players have excelled as go-to players. Thanks to a 10.5 ppg scoring mark Huff has more than doubled her career scoring average while shooting 48.4% from the floor to go with 4.1 rebounds per game and 15 total blocks. The 6-2 Becker has diversified her game and has become an inside-outside threat. The Platteville native is averaging a career-best 10.0 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while posting career-highs in three-point makes (18) and free throw percentage (77.9%).
* Let's Keep It This Way
Sure it's been a long time coming but thanks to Saturday's 14-point win over Detroit the UWM women's basketball team finally moved above the .500 mark for the season. The Panthers, who are currently 11-10 on the season, have made huge strides since starting the season 0-3, 2-5, and then 3-7. However, inching over the .500 mark this late in the season is nothing new for this group as last season's team waited until its 21st game to move to 11-10 while the 2002-03 team didn't get over the mark until a victory over Youngstown State made it 12-11 on Feb. 15.
* Shoot The Rock Molly
Yes, Molly O'Brien is easily one of the best all-around players in the Horizon League. Sure, she leads the league in steals and ranks among the league leaders in rebounds and assists. However if there is one thing the coaching staff would like to see O'Brien do more it's shoot the basketball. O'Brien, who is unselfish almost to a fault, sits second on the team with a 47.8% shooting percentage which increases to a team-high 52.1% in league-only games. The junior from Columbus is shooting 38.2% from three-point land on the season and 44.4% in league-only games. O'Brien has really shot well of late, connecting on 58.5% of her shots overall and 55.0% from three point land in the last six contests. During the stretch O'Brien is averaging 11.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.5 steals per game.
* Why Mess With Success
You can't blame UWM head coach Sandy Botham for sticking with what she likes. Through 19 games this season Milwaukee has used just three different starting lineups with only seven players earning at least one start this season. Three players, Kimberly Becker, Molly O'Brien, and Teri Huff, have started all 21 games while Aubrey Hampton and Nichole Drummond have started 19 times. Junior Anne Witte started the first two games of the season in place of Drummond while Amanda Cook replaced Hampton for two games in late January. The Panthers are 10-7 with the usual lineup and just 1-3 with the "other" starting lineup.
* Panthers Picked Near The Top
The respect the rest of the Horizon League has for the UWM women's basketball program has become evident. The Panthers, who lost two-time league player of the year Maria Viall, were still picked to finish second in the league's preseason poll of coaches, media members, and league sports information directors. Defending champion UW-Green Bay was a nearly unanimous pick to win the league with UWM picked for second. Butler and Detroit were chosen for a third-place tie followed by Loyola and UIC. The three Ohio schools rounded out the league poll with Cleveland State picked seventh, Wright State eighth, and YSU ninth.