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WISCONSIN SPORTS BRIEFS: UWM hoops returns to U.S. Cellular Arena

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MILWAUKEE - The UW-Milwaukee men’s basketball team will go back to playing its home games downtown.

The Panthers scrapped the idea of playing in a smaller arena on campus, which they did last season. Starting this fall, they’ll be back at the U.S. Cellular Arena for at least the next five years, with 17-percent less rent than they had two years ago and a smaller facility fee per ticket. UWM’s first game at “The Cell” is set for November 19th against De Paul. The previous athletic director pushed for a new on-campus stadium for the Panther men – but that’s been scrapped. The new athletic director, Amanda Braun, said the U.S. Cellular Arena makes sense as the school’s home for men’s basketball. Head Coach Rob Jeter applauded the move as well, saying they’ve always felt comfortable at the arena. It seats around 11,000 fans. It used to be the home of the Milwaukee Bucks until the Bradley Center opened next door in 1988.

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Ron Roenicke’s third season as the Milwaukee Brewers’ manager is a far cry from his first – when the Crew won 96 games and fell just two wins short of making the World Series. This year’s Crew is 38-56, with the largest deficit in any of the National League’s three divisions – 19-and-a-half games behind first-place Saint Louis in the Central. Roenicke said he’s had to put a lot more thought into managing the current Brewers, with a lot more conversations and way more challenges. He said he wanted those challenges but quote, “I don’t know if I wanted this much.” Roenicke – in his first big league managing job after five years as a top assistant with the Angels – said it’s been a hard first half. He said injuries have been a big problem, while some players have struggled. Roenicke also said some players have been quote, “really fun to watch and performing great.” The Brewers slipped a little last year, but they made a late charge and almost earned a Wild Card spot. Now, Milwaukee will be playing out the string when it opens the second half on Friday night at home against Miami. Two Brewers – Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura – are in New York as NL reserves for tomorrow night’s All-Star Game.

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Six present and former Milwaukee Brewers are gearing up for tomorrow night’s Major League All-Star Game in New York. Brewers’ shortstop Jean Segura and outfielder Carlos Gomez are working out today with their National League teammates, while four ex-Brewers are practicing with the American League squad. Shortstop J.J. Hardy, whom the Brewers traded for Gomez after the 2009 season, is the only starter on either team with Milwaukee ties. Hardy was shipped off to Minnesota and later found his true success with Baltimore. Ex-Brewer Prince Fielder – who signed with Detroit at the start of last season – will try to win his third All-Star Home Run Derby tonight before playing as a reserve in the Mid-Summer Classic. Ex-Milwaukee reliever Grant Balfour of Oakland and former Brewers’ prospect Nelson Cruz of Texas are the other AL reserves. Former UW-Stevens Point star Jordan Zimmermann of the Washington Nationals was named to the National League pitching squad. But he backed out after an MRI last week confirmed a neck injury. Zimmermann, an Auburndale native, will still be in the dugout for tomorrow night’s festivities. 

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The Brewers blew a chance to make history this past weekend, when Carlos Gomez had only two hits in the four-game series at Arizona. One more hit would have given Gomez 100 for the year – and he would have joined Jean Segura and Norichika Aoki as the only Brewers’ trio ever to have players with 100 hits before the All-Star break. Aoki now has 104 hits. Segura still leads the National League with 121. Despite having the Majors’ third-worst record, Milwaukee leads the big leagues in two offensive categories. They have 32 triples, and Gomez leads the Majors with nine. Milwaukee is also first in stolen bases with 75. It’s the first time since 1993 that the Crew has had over 70 stolen bases before the break. 

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Wisconsin’s two teams in the Class-“A” Midwest League both have matinees at home today. The Beloit Snappers will host Fort Wayne again, while the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers are at Appleton against Lake County. The first pitches for both are just after noon. The Rattlers fell to Lake County yesterday 4-3, while the Snappers lost to Fort Wayne 1-nothing. Four of the eight contests in the Midwest League are day games, with all teams taking tomorrow off due to the Major League All-Star Game. Besides the two Wisconsin contests, Bowling Green has a matinee at Cedar Rapids. And Dayton is at Quad Cities. Tonight, Kane County plays at West Michigan. Burlington is at Lansing. South Bend hosts Clinton. And Peoria plays at Great Lakes. Beloit and Cedar Rapids open the new week in a tie for first in the Western Division, two-and-a-half ahead of Quad Cities. Great Lakes and Bowling Green share the East lead by a game over South Bend. 

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In the Northwoods League, the South Division teams will open new series tonight. The Lakeshore Chinooks are in Mequon to host the Wisconsin Woodchucks. The Chinooks lost to Madison 4-to-2 yesterday, while the Woodchucks won an 11-7 slugfest over La Crosse. Madison plays at La Crosse this evening. Wisconsin Rapids opens a series at Green Bay. Rapids beat Eau Claire yesterday 3-to-1, while Green Bay lost to Battle Creek 12-10 in 10 innings. Eau Claire hosts Battle Creek tonight. Lakeshore has a half-game lead over Madison and Wisconsin in the South Division for the second half. Waterloo has a two-and-a-half game edge over second-place Mankato in the North. Waterloo entertains Thunder Bay tonight. Mankato is at Alexandria. Duluth hosts Rochester. And Willmar plays at Saint Cloud.

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Twenty-four players from Wisconsin teams have been picked for the Northwoods League All-Star Game a week from tomorrow night in Eau Claire. The Lakeshore Chinooks, Wisconsin Rapids and the first-half champion Madison Mallards each have five All-Stars, the most on the South Division squad. Madison has three pitchers who were named – Sam Forkert, Hunter May, and Luke Staub who had a 1.85 ERA as of late last week. Drew Weeks and John LaPrise were the other Mallards named. The five Lakeshore players are Mike Hollenbeck, Ryan Krill, Sawyer Polen, and pitchers Tyler Thicke and Kyle Bouman. The five Rapids All-Stars are Jackson Slaid, Donnie Dewees, Jonathan Moroney, and pitchers J-P Feyereisen and John Kravetz. The La Crosse Loggers have four South Division All-Stars – Kevin Zak and Johnny Bekakis, and pitchers Colin Monsour and Josh Frye. Also named were Matt Tellor and pitcher Jackson Lowery of the Wisconsin Woodchucks – Eau Claire pitcher Tyler Sparger – and Boomer White of Green Bay. Andrew Ely of Green Bay was also named, but cannot play due to injury. Donnie Scott of Madison will be the South Division manager the second time in three years.

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Green Bay Packers’ fans who normally see a game in Minnesota can start buying their tickets tomorrow. Single game seats will go on sale at 9 a.m. at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, and 10 o’clock at Ticketmaster’s online and phone outlets. The Vikings’ home game against Green Bay is on Sunday night, October 27th. As always, the Vikes will at least start forcing buyers for the Packer game to purchase another game as well – but that one’s not an exhibition game, for a change. For now, the Packer tickets are being paired with the regular season contest against Cleveland on September 22nd. The Vikings’ strategy normally doesn’t work for the duration – and they end up selling the Packer game on a single basis to those willing to wait. The early demand might be bigger than normal, though, since this is the final season that the Vikes will play in the Metrodome. 

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Madison golfer Steve Stricker admits having second thoughts about pulling out of the British Open. He said it wasn’t the smartest move, but he was committed to spending most of this season with his family. Stricker plans to be in northern Wisconsin this week to celebrate his 20th wedding anniversary with his wife Nicki. They’ll join another family for a week-long vacation, and Stricker calls it a good reason to skip out on the season’s third major. Jerry Kelly of Madison could have made the trip to England, had he won yesterday’s John Deere Classic. Kelly fell one stroke short in a tie for fourth, and he plans to watch his son play baseball in Tennessee this week. Pewaukee native Mark Wilson is not crossing the pond either, leaving no Wisconsinites for local golf fans to watch. Meanwhile, Stricker moved back into the Top-10 in the World Golf Rankings, after tying for 10th at the John Deere Classic near the Quad Cities. Stricker was 11th a week ago. Kelly jumped 31 places to 166th. Wilson dropped three spots to 131st in the world, after missing the cut at the John Deere. Tiger Woods is still the World Number-One, with Rory McIlroy second and Justin Rose third. 

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It’s been two weeks since NBA teams have negotiated with free agents – and so far, nobody but Milwaukee has expressed an interest in Bucks’ point guard Brandon Jennings. The Bucks were hoping to get Atlanta point guard Jeff Teague, but the Hawks kept the restricted free agent by matching his four-year, 32-million-dollar offer on Saturday. Jennings was looking in on the Bucks yesterday, as he sent two tweets to NBA-TV during its broadcast of Milwaukee’s 69-61 Summer League win over New Orleans in Las Vegas. Jennings said quote, “Whatever you hear in the media isn’t true – I haven’t talked to anybody since the season was over … And I will continue not to talk to anyone.” The Bucks made a one-year, four-point-three-million dollar qualifying offer which gave Milwaukee the chance to match any offer Jennings gets – and GM John Hammond has said the Bucks would do what’s necessary to keep him. 

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