Amir Allen
Amir Allen

Men's Basketball Chris Zills

Panthers Look To Keep Rolling At Home Against Mastodons

Milwaukee opened home slate 2-0 last weekend

The Milwaukee men's basketball team will look to match its best Horizon League start since the 2011-12 campaign when it plays host to Horizon League newcomer Purdue Fort Wayne this weekend. The contests against the Mastodons are set to tip at 6 p.m. both Friday and Saturday, the nightcap of an MKE women's/men's twinbill each day at the Klotsche Center. They will both feature a live stream on ESPN+, will have live statistics available and will be carried on the Black & Gold Network with Scott Warras on the call. All links are posted on the MKE website. Milwaukee last started 6-1 through seven games in 2011-12.

With no fans permitted at all conference venues this season, fans can engage with the Panthers' Virtual Gameday hub, a page on MKEPanthers.com that houses all links fans will need for the gameday experience.

LOOKING AT THE MASTODONS
Purdue Fort Wayne has enjoyed much success under seventh-year head coach Jon Coffman. Coffman led the Mastodons to a winning record in each of his first five campaigns, playing in a national postseason tournament each year from 2015 through 2018. A year ago, the team went 14-19 overall, finishing 6-10 in league play. The program checked in at No. 11 in the Horizon League preseason poll this year.

Much like the Panthers, the Mastodons have faced a schedule that has seen seven cancellations or postponements. The team will enter play Friday at 4-5 overall, which includes a 3-5 ledger in conference play after sweeping UIC this past weekend. They are led by Jarred Godfrey, named Horizon League Player of the Week Monday after a series against the Flames in which he averaged 28.5 points and 6.5 rebounds, including a 41-point effort in the opener. He paces the team in scoring (18.2 ppg), joined in double-figures by Jalon Pipkins (12.2 ppg) and Bobby Planutis (10.0 ppg). Purdue Fort Wayne leads the league in field goal percentage (.510) and is second in scoring (78.1 ppg).

SERIES HISTORY
Despite being relatively close travel-wise, the two teams have met on the hardwood just once all-time. That game took place December 30, 1987, with the Panthers falling by a final score of 77-61.

LAST TIME OUT
The Milwaukee men's basketball team finished strong, scoring eight of the final 10 points of the afternoon to claim a 71-63 victory over IUPUI Jan. 9.
 
The Panthers (5-2, 4-1 Horizon League) used contributions from up-and-down the lineup to take control against the Jaguars (1-4, 0-4 Horizon League), moving to 4-1 in conference play for the first time since the 2011-12 season.
 
Te'Jon Lucas led the way with 15 points, adding five rebounds and four assists. Josh Thomas added 14 points and came up big down the stretch, scoring two of MKE's final three field goals. He added seven rebounds and three steals.

Eight second-half lead changes took place before the Panthers would go ahead for good at 58-57 on a jumper from DeAndre Gholston at the 6:48 mark. Milwaukee would keep up the momentum the rest of the day to gain the final separation in the contest.

SIMMS-SATIONAL!
Tafari Simms enjoyed what can only be called the best breakout offensive game for a Panther in decades against IUPUI Jan. 8. His 32 points were noteworthy on so many levels.

*Topped his former collegiate-best of 21 points that he netted against New Mexico Junior College on January 30, 2020.
*Most for a Panther since Akeem Springs netted 33 against Youngstown State in January of 2016.
*Most points off the bench since Avery Smith scored 36 against Oakland in December of 2006.
*Outside of Simms and Smith's performances, just one other Panther has scored 30-plus off the bench in the past two decades (Jeremiah Bell had 31 vs. Detroit Mercy in March of 2017).
*Simms had just 12 points on the season coming into the day. For perspective, he scored 12 points during the decisive 19-0 run against the Jags.
*Added his name to the MKE record book in both the single-game field goal (.769) and single-game three-point field-goal (.833) categories.

IN THE ZONE IS AN UNDERSTATEMENT
Tafari Simms also added his name to the program record book with his impressive shooting display against IUPUI Jan. 8. His 32 points included a 10-for-13 showing from the floor and a 5-for-6 showing free three-point range.

SINGLE-GAME FG%
.846 (11-13) Adrian Tigert 2006
.846 (11-13) Dylan Page 2003
.833 (10-12) Bryce Nze 2017
.833 (10-12) Marc Mitchell 1992
.769 (10-13) Three players, now including Simms.
*Last to do so: Avery Smith 2006

SINGLE-GAME 3FG%
1.000 (6-6) Joe Schultz 1991
1.000 (5-5) 4 times, most recent Darius Roy 2020
.833 (10-12) Ronnie Jones 2002
.833 (5-6) Simms

THAT'S OFFENSIVE!
The Panthers put up their most points in a first half this season against IUPUI Jan. 8 with 44, topping the 40 they scored by halftime against Western Michigan Dec. 13. The 94 total points they ended the contest with are also the most points in a game that did not go into overtime since piling up 98 against UIC back on February 28, 2016.

In addition, the MKE offense posted back-to-back shooting highs as a team, starting with 52.5 percent (31-of-59) Friday before topping that with a 55.8 percent (29-of-52) clip on Saturday. Both of those were the highest since a .609 performance against Wisconsin Lutheran on Nov. 12 of 2019 and the best against an NCAA DI opponent since connecting on 58.5 percent (31-of-53) showing against Albany back on November 30, 2018. Milwaukee's 56.5 percent (13-of-23) performance from three-point range against the Jaguars Jan. 8 was also its highest since that same game against Albany. That afternoon they sank 57.1 percent (12-of-21) from deep in a game played in a tournament in Northern Ireland.

FILLING IT UP FROM DEEP
Grant Coleman tied for the team lead with his 16 points against Robert Morris Jan. 1, marking the first time a freshman led MKE in scoring in a game since January of the 2016-17 campaign. That month, both Jeremy Johnson (17 points against Cleveland State 1/20/17) and Bryce Nze (22 against UIC 1/17/17) accomplished the feat. His five three-pointers in a game is also the high-water mark for a freshman since Austin Arians sank five against Loyola Chicago in a 17-point effort back on January 30, 2013.

THE TREK TO 1,000
Te'Jon Lucas will have a major milestone waiting for him this season, as he is on pace to cross the 1,000-point plateau for points in a career at some point. The most recent player to achieve the feat in a Panther uniform was Jake Wright, who netted his 1,000th in his final collegiate game to close out the 2018-19 season (with 288 of those points coming at MKE).

When Lucas gets the milestone, he would be the 28th player to do so wearing a Panther uniform, while also joining Wright as the second one to not have spent most of his career at Milwaukee. The most recent to hit the mark in MKE-only games was Matt Tiby in 2016, finishing with 1,332 points (in three seasons).

Lucas enters Friday at 847 points.

PHOILING THE PHOENIX
The Panthers started Horizon League play with a pair of wins, moving to 2-0 to open the conference slate for the first time since the 2011-12 campaign. It also marked the first regular-season sweep of the Phoenix since that same winter. Te'Jon Lucas paced the win Dec. 19 by scoring 18 of his 21 points in the second half, leading the way in scoring, rebounding (7) and assists (6) in the contest. The next day it was DeAndre Gholston coming through with his first double-double as a Panther, netting a team-high 18 points and 10 rebounds to pace four players in double-figures.

BUCKING THE BRONCOS
The Panthers claimed their first victory of the season against Western Michigan with a strong finish Dec. 13, with Te'Jon Lucas playing the leading role down the stretch. His 1-of-2 effort at the line with 2:39 left started the decisive span, pushing the lead to 60-57. After a WMU miss, he hit a tough shot in the paint and, following another miss by the Broncos, found Courtney Brown Jr. for a huge three-pointer that made it 66-57 with 1:06 to go. Lucas then made 5-of-6 from the line over the final 33 seconds to ice the win. He accounted for each of MKE's final 11 points, scoring eight of them while assisting Brown Jr.'s three.

LEAGUE LIFTOFF
Milwaukee broke a recent skid in Horizon League openers, topping Green Bay (68-65) after having dropped the initial game of the conference slate each of the past six seasons, dating back to an 82-76 victory over Youngstown State in 2013-14. Since joining the MCC/Horizon League, Milwaukee is now 14-13 in league openers. The last time the team was 2-0 was 2011-12, the same year they started 3-0 before a loss. The last 4-0 start came in 2008-09 (in which they started 5-0).

DROPPING DIMES
Te'Jon Lucas wasted no time in setting the bar for what he can do in the passing game. He recorded nine assists in the season-opener against Kansas State Dec. 11, finishing just one off of his career-high that he set against Kansas City last season. The nine helpers is also the most in a season opener in Milwaukee's NCAA DI history, with the closest totals over the past 25 years coming from Jordan Johnson (7 vs. Denver in 2015) and Jordan Aaron (7 vs. Mary in 2012).

IS IT STILL TECHNICALLY A RECORD?
Speaking of helpers, Te'Jon Lucas will start play Friday with 384 assists in his NCAA career. The Milwaukee career record is 383 set by Kaylon Williams (2010-12), a total that Lucas passed against IUPUI Jan. 9.

However, to clarify, 195 of his 384 have come while wearing a Panther uniform.

DOUBLE-FIGURES IN No. 1
The Panthers had four different players finish in double-figures in the season opener against Kansas State Dec. 11, including one freshman when Grant Coleman scored 14 points off the bench. That marked the most points for a freshman in a season opener since Tony Meier recorded a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds against Loyola Marymount on November 14, 2008. The last time someone had more was when Clay Tucker lit up Central Michigan for 24 in his MKE debut in the 1999 opener - a game he sank a three at the buzzer to win. In addition, it marks only the third time since Meier that a frosh has netted double-figures in the opener: Jeremy Johnson had 11 against MSOE in 2016-17 and Justin Jordan also finished with 11 in the 2014-15 debut against Auburn. Coleman's six rebounds against the Wildcats tied for the team lead - again the first time that has been accomplished by a freshman since Meier's 12 in 2008.

FRESHIE-FRESH DEBUTS
The Panthers saw four different freshmen make their collegiate debuts against Kansas State Dec. 11, with Grant Coleman (20 minutes), Kaleim Taylor (14), Donovan Newby (8) and Devon Hancock (2) all seeing time on the court against the Wildcats. It's the most freshmen to see action in a season opener for the Panthers since the 2016-17 campaign. That season, six different freshmen made their initial college debuts against MSOE: Bryce Barnes, Sam Burkhart, August Haas, Seth Dittmer, Bryce Nze, and Jeremy Johnson.

THE NEXT LEVEL
DeAndre Gholston put together an impressive debut for the Panthers against Kansas State in the season opener Dec. 11. He led the way with 15 points against the Wildcats, adding six rebounds, three assists and a pair of blocks. It's the second consecutive season that Milwaukee has seen a great debut by a JUCO transfer - a year ago it was Josh Thomas who finished with 18 points against Concordia Wisconsin.

A WHOLE NEW WORLD
The program was paused in late November due to COVID-19 protocols, forcing the Panthers to cancel the MKE Classic and postpone the start of the new campaign. The 2020-21 season-opening date of Dec. 11 is the first to take place in the month of December since the 1992-93 campaign (Dec. 1 that season) and the latest in program history since the 1926-27 slate tipped off on Dec. 22, 1926. In addition, as of January 11, the team had played as many games (7) as it had cancelled due to COVID protocols (7).

P.O.Y. POSSIBILITIES
Te'Jon Lucas is embarking on what should be a memorable senior season. Following a junior campaign in which he led the Horizon League in assists and steals while also scoring nearly 15 points per game, Lucas will be on the short list of everyone's conference Player of the Year candidates. In addition to topping the field in assists and steals, Lucas also ranked third in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.6), fifth in free throw percentage (79.4), ninth in minutes played (33.4 mpg), and 12th in scoring.

NEW FACES
There will be numerous new faces for the fans to get to know this season. In fact, just one team in the country at the NCAA Division I level has more newcomers than the eleven MKE now has on the 2020-21 roster.
12 – Arkansas
(4 grad transfers/3 transfers/5 freshmen)
11 – Milwaukee
11 – Alcorn State
11 – Arizona
11 – New Mexico
11 – Seattle
11 – South Dakota

The makeup of Milwaukee's 11 fresh faces breaks down to the following:
Transfers set to play (2):
Vin Baker Jr., Joey St. Pierre
Transfers who will sit (1):
Jordan Lathon (Jr.)
JUCO transfers (2):
DeAndre Gholston, Tafari Simms
Redshirt Freshmen (1):
Tyler Ellingson
True Freshmen (5):
Donovan Newby, Devon Hancock, Kaleim Taylor, Nick Pappas, Grant Coleman

LEAGUE SCHEDULE NOTE
The updated 2020-21 Horizon League schedule for Panthers features a unique slate of 20 games split evenly between home and road venues. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the setup of the games is unprecedented, with teams playing the same opponent on back-to-back dates at the same location. Each school will have five home weekends and five road weekends and will play 10 of 11 league opponents (Milwaukee will not play Youngstown State.)

START ME UP
The Panthers returned five players who made starts in 2019-20, including a pair of players in Te'Jon Lucas (30-of-30, missing one to injury) and C.J. Wilbourn (30-of-31) that started 30 of the team's 31 contests. In addition, MKE returned Josh Thomas (20 starts in 31 games), Courtney Brown Jr. (starts in 16 of final 17 outings while playing in all 31 games), and Amir Allen (10 starts in 23 appearances).

SPECIAL COMBINATION
Te'Jon Lucas pulled off a pair of special statistical achievements last winter, finishing as the Horizon League leader in both assists (5.1 apg) and steals (1.9 spg). In finishing No. 1 on the assist chart, he joined Kaylon Williams (league leader in 2010-11 and 2011-12) as the only other Panther to do so in program history while also becoming the first MKE player to pace the league in steals. In the process, he became just the fifth Horizon League player to accomplish the double-No. 1 feat.
The others:
*Kay Felder, Oakland (2013-14)
*Cedric Jackson, Cleveland State (2008-09)
*Roy Simms, Detroit Mercy (1982-83)
*Darius Clemons, LaSalle (1980-81).

TOP TALENT IN 2019-20
Te'Jon Lucas got the nod as a member of the second team when the Horizon League announced its All-Conference Teams last winter, making him the first Panther to earn a postseason award since Jeremiah Bell was also a second-team honoree in 2017-18. In addition, C.J. Wilbourn was also recognized, earning a spot on the Horizon League All-Freshmen Team. He was the first Panther to be named to the All-Freshman team since Jordan Aaron in 2012-13 (formerly the All-Newcomer team).

THE MAIN DISH
With his league-leading assists total finishing at 153, Te'Jon Lucas was creeping up on an all-time mark as a junior. He finished with the sixth-best total in program history, just behind Marc Mitchell's 156 in 1991-92. For perspective, Kaylon Williams set the standard with 178 in 2010-11.

CHARITY STRIPE SAGA
The Panthers have been very good at the free throw line as a team over the past few seasons, recording the top two marks in program history very recently. A year ago, the team connected on .709 (399-of-563) to finish third in the Horizon League and just outside of the Top 5 in program history.
 
TOP TEAM FREE THROW %/SEASON
1. 2013-14 season: .745 (527-707)
2. 2017-18 season: .744 (375-504)

NEARLY NO ONE BETTER
Speaking of free throws, MKE had two of the top five in the Horizon League a season ago, with Te'Jon Lucas (.794 on 108-136) at No. 5 and Darius Roy (.815 on 97-119) checking in at No. 4. After passing the minimum amount of attempts to qualify for the career free throw percentage list in program history, Roy was knocking on the door of a school record. The current mark of .838 (207-of-247) is held by Jordan Aaron (2012-14). Roy finished his Milwaukee career at .828 (183-of-221).

Lucas himself looks to keep a three-year trend going, having converted at a better rate from the free throw line each of his three college seasons:

FRESHMAN: 42-of-71 (.592)
SOPHOMORE: 32-of-52 (.615)
JUNIOR: 108-of-136 (.794)
CAREER: 182-of-259 (.703)

AND WE'RE OFF
A couple of different looks to the season opener, which saw Milwaukee playing its opening game of the season on the road for the fifth time in eight years. The team is now 18-13 in season openers since returning to the NCAA Division I ranks full-time in 1990-91, including a 72-62 victory over Concordia Wisconsin to start the 2019-20 slate a year ago. In all, the Panthers have also posted a 4-12 mark in season openers played away from home in that span. On the flip side, MKE is 25-5 in that same stretch in home openers, claiming victories in 18 of the past 20 (13 in a row at one point). This was the fourth opener for head coach Pat Baldwin, having gone 2-1 over the previous three seasons at the helm.

WILBOURN FINDING HIS WAY
Not only did C.J. Wilbourn become the first Panther to be named to the All-Freshman team since 2012-13, but he also finished the season on a high note by connecting on 65.1 percent of his field goals (28-for-43) over his final 10 games. He earned a spot in the starting lineup from day one, starting 30 of the 31 games (all but "Senior Night") on the season, averaging 4.4 points and 2.9 rebounds per outing.

ENTER THE FROSH
Speaking of big "frosh" moments, the starting lineup against IUPUI Jan. 3 a year ago featured three different freshmen, with C.J. Wilbourn, Courtney Brown Jr., and Shae Mitchell all earning the opportunity against the Jaguars. It's a rare feat for the Panthers, happening just one other time in recent memory. That was in January of 2016 when August Haas, Jeremy Johnson and Bryce Nze accomplished the feat.

Wilbourn was also a member of the starting lineup in the season opener against Concordia Wisconsin Nov. 5, marking just the third time a frosh has been a starter in a season opener in the past decade for the Panthers, joining August Haas (against MSOE, 11/11/16) and Thierno Niang (against Mary, 11/9/12).

20/20/20 VISION
The Panthers pulled off an offensive feat not seen in quite some time last season when the team finished with three players with 20 or more points in the same game. Te'Jon Lucas, DeAndre Abram and Darius Roy all contributed exactly 20 points each against Green Bay Feb. 15, the first time three Panthers have done the trick since February 5, 2005. That day, Milwaukee defeated UIC by a final score of 85-75, with Joah Tucker (26), Ed McCants (22) and Boo Davis (20) all finishing with impressive point totals.

TE'JON TAKEOVER
Te'Jon Lucas came up big against IUPUI Feb. 8 last season, matching his career-high with 31 points. His career-best 12 rebounds also gave him his second career double-double (his other came via points/assists) and he did most of his damage down the stretch. On the bench with four fouls, Lucas came back in with 7:30 to play and the contest tied at 60. He came down and hit a huge three-pointer the next possession, getting fouled and converting the free throw for the four-point play with seven minutes to go.
 
He ended up playing the rest of the day with those 4 fouls, scoring 16 of his 31 in that 12 1/2-minute span – including what turned into the eventual game-winner with 7.0 seconds left. With the game tied, 78-78, he drove down the left side of the lane, sidestepped the defense and banked it in off the glass for the go-ahead bucket. He was named Horizon League Player of the Week as a result, the first two-time winner in one season for the Panthers since Jordan Johnson in December of 2015.

RISE AGAINST THE PHOENIX
Te'Jon Lucas finished with a new career-high and the first 30-point game of his career when he netted 31 against Green Bay Jan. 11 last year. The 30-point effort was the first for a Panther since DeAndre Abram went for 31 against Detroit Mercy last January, a span of 29 games. The 31 points topped Lucas' former career-best of 26 against Morgan State earlier and included a 9-of-10 showing at the free throw line - his most made free throws in one game in his career as well. For his efforts, he was named the Horizon League Player of the Week, just the second time for a Milwaukee player since December of 2015. He was also tabbed the College Sports Madness Horizon League Player of the Week.

A TRUE SPORTSCENTER #1
While it may have been a bit of time since the Panthers last made the SportsCenter Top 10, they did so with a bang Jan. 5 last season. Te'Jon Lucas' game-winner against UIC not only made the list, but came in at No. 1 on the "Worldwide Leader in Sports". It is the first time the Panthers have ever earned the top spot on the highlight feature.

BROADCAST BASICS
Each and every Panther game this season will be available on the Black & Gold Network. In conjunction with the website mixlr.com, Scott Warras - back for his fifth season with the MKE men and 15th with the Panthers overall - will broadcast every game over the internet at the following link: mixlr.com/mke-panthers.

GAME PROGRAMS AVAILABLE ON-LINE
With the announcement of no fans in the stands until at least January of 2021, fans can still be part of the in-arena feel with the option to download game programs as the season rolls on. Head to the MKE website and click on the "Multimedia" tab for download options.

THE BEAR NECESSITIES
Former Milwaukee forward Demetrius Harris (2011-13) is once again on the active roster in the National Football League in 2020, playing with the Chicago Bears following one season with the Cleveland Browns and five years with the Kansas City Chiefs. An undrafted free agent to start his career, he caught seven passes for 45 yards this season, making five starts in 15 appearances. Coming into 2020, Harris had caught 79 passes for 799 yards, including nine touchdowns. The first Panther to play in the NFL since 1983, Harris played two seasons at Milwaukee and helped the team to a College Basketball Invitational appearance in 2012 before putting up 9.1 ppg and 5.3 rpg in 2012-13. The 6-foot-7 Harris made his NFL debut when he appeared in eight games as a tight end for the Chiefs in 2014 and hauled in three passes for 20 yards before suffering a season-ending foot injury during warm-ups against Buffalo in early November.

IT'S OUR HOUSE
Although the building is not new and has been the site to many historic basketball moments in Milwaukee history, this is Milwaukee's sixth season in an arena that bears its name - UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. In July of 2014, the University and Wisconsin Center District entered into a 10-year partnership that included naming rights to the facility formerly known as The MECCA and U.S. Cellular Arena.

UP NEXT
The Panthers close out the month of January with four games on the road, starting with a pair of matchups with Cleveland State. The opener against the Vikings, who currently sit alone at the top of the league standings, is currently set for 6 p.m. CST Friday.
 
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