Charlotte 97, Milwaukee 81

CHARLOTTE, N.C., March 30 (AP) -- Charlotte Bobcats coach Bernie Bickerstaff thinks he knows why the United States has been struggling in international basketball: it's not producing players like Walter Herrmann.

The Argentine scored a career-high 23 points, continuing his hot streak after being invisible for most of the season, to lead the Bobcats past the Milwaukee Bucks 97-81 Friday night.

Gerald Wallace added 24 points and Emeka Okafor had 11 points and 12 rebounds for Charlotte, which earned its first victory over the Bucks in 10 meetings.

The 6-foot-9 Herrmann, who didn't play in 34 of Charlotte's first 64 games, hit 11 of 15 shots in scoring 15 or more points for the seventh time in nine games. He also had nine rebounds,

"He cuts to the basket, that's what (foreign players) do,'' Bickerstaff said of Herrmann, who was signed last summer to a one-year deal with a club option for a second season. "That's why they're kicking our tails, because they play the game with simplicity.''

Most of Herrmann's minutes came at the expense of struggling rookie Adam Morrison, who was held to three points in a season-low seven minutes and didn't play in the second half of the Bobcats' second straight win.

"I feel like I'm playing better all the time and just continuing to work here,'' Herrmann said through a translator. "I'm very happy with my progress.''

Herrmann, who played in the Spanish ACB league last year, had several backdoor layups, while Wallace couldn't be stopped in the lane without being fouled. Wallace hit 12 of 14 free throws and Charlotte outscored the Bucks in the paint 48-28.

Ruben Patterson scored 12 of his 14 points in the first half and Michael Redd was held to 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting for Milwaukee, which committed 24 turnovers in its fifth straight loss.

"They did a great job cutting off the ball,'' Redd said of the Bobcats. "They did a great job recognizing the double team and they did a really good job making adjustments throughout the game.''

The third-year Bobcats, who had been 0-9 against the Bucks, trailed 46-43 at halftime. Charlotte took control in the third quarter, when the Bucks missed nine of their first 10 shots and committed eight turnovers in the Bobcats' 21-3 run.

"Right now the game is hard enough without senseless stuff like that,'' Bucks coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "I don't know exactly what it is, but we're certainly not clicking.''

Milwaukee also committed seven fouls in the spurt, many to stop breakaway dunks and layups. Wallace made all five free throws and had a putback in the run, while Herrmann hit two layups and a jumper.

"I felt like once he got comfortable and once he got used to the way we played over here, he would be all right,'' Wallace said of Herrmann.

Bucks center Brian Skinner - starting with Andrew Bogut and Charlie Villanueva out for the season - picked up his fourth foul in the decisive third quarter. Ersan Ilyasova and Damir Markota also struggled to defend inside in the Bucks' 19th loss in their last 21 road games.

With Okafor playing in his second straight game after missing 15 with a calf injury and Derek Anderson returning from a sore knee, Charlotte was as healthy as it has been in more than a month with 12 players in uniform.

It allowed Bickerstaff to use different combinations, with Morrison playing little and center Primoz Brezec never getting off the bench.

"They didn't play. No rhyme or reason,'' Bickerstaff said.

The Bucks, who nearly upset league-leading Dallas on Wednesday, had little energy in the second half as they dropped to 9-29 on the road. To make matters worse, they were crammed into a tiny locker room - not Charlotte's normal visiting locker room - perhaps as payback for the small visiting locker room in Milwaukee.

Notes: Charlotte has now beaten every Eastern Conference team. The Bobcats have yet to beat Dallas, Memphis, Phoenix and the Los Angeles Clippers. ... Bucks C Dan Gadzuric, out since dislocating his left shoulder on Feb. 3, could return Sunday against Washington. Krystkowiak said Gadzuric has looked good in the past couple of practices. ... Bobcats F Sean May, who is likely finished for the season due to a bone bruise on his right knee, said he could play in the Orlando summer league, where Charlotte will field a team.

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