Milwaukee, WI – Milwaukee point guard Jordan Johnson may have been the smallest player on the court on Saturday afternoon when the Detroit Titans visited the Milwaukee Panthers for an Horizon League match-up, but he had the biggest impact on the game as Johnson led the Panthers to a highly contested 83-80 victory.
Blessed with a jet-quick first step, Johnson penetrated the Titans’ defense time and again to get a piece of the paint for scoring opportunities for himself and passing opportunities for his teammates positioned behind the three-point line. When the Titans gave Johnson space in an attempt to stop his drives to the rim, Johnson made them pay by connecting on 3-of-5 shots from behind the arc, including one from behind NBA three-point distance.
“Jordan plays with a great pace to his game,” said Milwaukee coach Rob Jeter. “He has the ability to go from a couple of miles to 55 miles an hour in a second. He catches the opponent off guard and makes his teammates better.”
A junior college transfer from John Wood Community College (IL), Johnson turned in a highly efficient game needing only ten field goal attempts to score 25 points. He also made 8-of-9 free throw attempts. Second in the league with an assist average of eight per game, Johnson found time to assist on six of his teammates’ baskets, a figure that had the potential to be much higher had his teammates shot better than 9.5 percent (2-for-19) from behind the three-point line.
Saddled with two early fouls and not wanting to risk a third foul before halftime, Jeter sat his floor general for a six-minute stretch in the later stages of the first half. “It got a little scary for us when Jordan went down with two fouls,” said Jeter. That the Titans were able to outscore the Panthers 20-9 during that period and take a 37-31 lead into intermission was no coincidence.
Coming off a 28-point night in a January 18 loss to Wright State, Detroit sophomore and leading scorer Paris Bass struggled to find his rhythm in the first half. The 6-8 Detroit area native connected on only 1-of-4 shots for his only two first-half points.
But Bass was picked up by teammate Chris Jenkins, a bouncy 6-7 wing with a soft touch he used to make 3-of-5 shots, all from behind the three-point line, and all of his six free throws to score a team-high 15 first-half points.
“Detroit came in and did a nice job of keeping us off-balance,” said Jeter. “I thought we were disjointed and there really wasn’t a flow.”
Milwaukee chipped away at the Detroit lead in the early stages of the second half until finally going ahead 55-53 on a J.J. Panoske three-point shot with 13 minutes left to play. A four-year player who has started all 20 games for the Panthers this season, Panoske has a mixed skill set for a 6-10 big. A native of northern Wisconsin, Panoske has extended the range on his jump shot to the point of being a threat from behind the three-point line as his 41 percent average from distance attests. But the heart of his game is as a rim protector. Panoske led Milwaukee with two blocked shots against Detroit and is on pace to break his school record of 41 blocked shots in a season.
Bass continued to struggle to get his footing for Detoit and took a seat on the Titans’ bench after committing his fourth foul at the 13.07 mark. The game see-sawed back and forth until two lay-ups, one in transition and one in set offense, by Milwaukee’s Akeem Springs allowed the Panthers to create some separation at 66-60. Milwaukee’s Matt Tiby cleaned up a missed shot in the paint and gave the Panthers their biggest lead of the game at 72-64 with just over four minutes left to play.
Now back in the game, Bass showed the crowd of 3,107 and a high-ranking basketball operations official of the Milwaukee Bucks in attendance why he was named the Horizon League’s Freshman of the Year last season and why he was recently named to the Lou Henson Award Watch List, an award honoring the top mid-major player in Division I college basketball. A lean, long wing with developing range from distance and the ability to go a long way with one dribble in attacking the rim, Bass helped rally the Titans.
Finishing with 18 points, Bass turned in the highlight reel play of the game stealing a Milwaukee inbound pass in the Panthers’ backcourt and racing to the basket for a two-handed dunk.
Things got chippy in the last two minutes of the game as they sometimes do when teams go at each other as hard the way the Panthers and Titans did. With Detroit trailing by four with less than a minute to play, the Titans fouled Johnson in the Milwaukee backcourt. Players on both teams confronted each other verbally and technical fouls were called on Johnson and Detroit’s Josh McFolley. With that being the second technical foul whistled on McFolley, he was dismissed from the game.
According to a Milwaukee sports information representative, the last 39 seconds of clock time of the game took 16 minutes in real time to play with all the referee reviews, time outs and free throws taken into consideration. Johnson calmly stepped to the free throw line and pretty much sealed the victory for Milwaukee by making the two free throws awarded him on the personal foul called on McFolley.
“We just found a way,” said Jeter. “They are so athletic the way they can score. We had to figure out a way to get to the rim and make the officials part of the game.” Led by Johnson’s nine attempts at the free throw line, Milwaukee shot 31 free throws and connected on 26 for an impressive 84 percent success rate.
Johnson said he was talking with some friends of his from his hometown of Evanston, Illinois earlier in the week and decided to die his hair gold to match the gold in the Milwaukee team colors. Jeter was not pleased with his point guard’s new hair color. Sharing the table in the postgame press conference with Johnson so his point guard could hear him, Jeter smiled and said, “I don’t like the look. I’m still going to talk to his mother.”
“Twenty-five points, OK. Eight free throws, OK. Six assists, OK,” said Jeter reading Johnson’s stat line. “One technical foul. Hum, maybe the gold hair made him a little more fiesty.”
The victory extended Milwaukee’s winning streak to two games, improved its overall record to 14-6 and league mark to 5-2 and gave the Panthers momentum heading into a Monday night showdown with Oakland University and its dynamic point guard Kahlil Felder. Not only do Felder and Johnson rank first and second, respectively, in the Horizon League in assists, they rank first and second in all of Division I basketball as well.
The loss dropped Detroit to 9-9 overall and 3-4 in conference. The Titans return to action on January 25 when they venture to Green Bay for a game with the Phoenix.
This article was written by Tom Osowski, a correspondent and scout for NetScouts Basketball. You can subscribe to our RSS feed from the upper right corner of our home page, follow us on Facebook, or on twitter.
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