A 14 point run by Villanova late in the first half into the second half deflated the hopes of UW-Milwaukee and of the fans that were decked out in their signature black and gold. At the end of the game, the Panthers were only able to manage one field goal in the last five minutes of the game as Milwaukee lost 73-53 to the Villnova Wildcats in the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday night in Buffalo.
Villanova dominated UW-Milwaukee down in the low post and off the bench, outscoring the Panthers by 26 points in the paint and by 17 points off the bench. Four of the five Milwaukee starters played over 30 minutes, with the only exception being forward Matt Tiby. Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart combined for 22 of Villanova’s 26 points coming from their bench.
“We have to give Villanova a lot of credit. To be undersized, they do a nice job of fighting and being aggressive,” Rob Jeter said. “Eventually they just wear you down and I think that’s what happened to us.”
After a historic run in the Horizon League Tournament, becoming the lowest seeded team to win the tournament, the Panthers were unable to keep that momentum going into the NCAA Tournament’s Second Round. UWM’s field goal percentage totaled below 30 percent. While the Panthers struggled shooting all night, Villanova turned around their woeful shooting from just over 30 percent in the first half to just over 62 percent shooting in the second half. There did not seem to be a standout reason for Villanova’s turnaround.
“We just struggled in that we couldn’t get a bucket to fall in the last four minutes of the first half,” said Tiby. “We just wanted to come out in the second half with that energy. They were hitting tough shots over us and they were blocking our shots. You have to give credit to them. They had a great game plan and we just couldn’t buy a bucket for a while.”
Jordan Aaron struggled to find his shot on his final game as a Panther, going 0-for-7 in the first half and 1-for 8 in the second half. Aaron finished the game with just six points after playing what many thought was his best basketball during the Horizon League Tournament run.
“You just got to credit Villanova,” Aaron said. “They did a great job of keeping me off balance and staying into me. They did a great job on defense. A lot of shots that I took out there just didn’t fall for me.”
A strong contingent of Panther supporters did make the trip from Milwaukee to Buffalo to watch the Panthers play. Panther players went into the crowd after the game in recognition of the fans coming out to see them.
“It’s an awesome feeling when you are traveling from Milwaukee to Buffalo and Villanova is only traveling from Philly and we see as many fans as we had there tonight,” said Austin Arians. “It’s an awesome feeling to know that we have the support of Milwaukee behind us.”
Villanova Head Coach Jay Wright said that his team’s patience and defense allowed them to pull away from Milwaukee toward the end of the game.
“I give them [Milwaukee] a lot of credit,” said Wright. “I was really proud of our guys not making shots and still being able to defend and play hard.”
For Villanova, they move onto the Round of 32 on Saturday, where they will play against an old Big East rival: Connecticut. For Milwaukee, they experience the loss that all but one team will experience by the end of the tournament.
“I’m very proud of my team,” said Jeter. “There’s going to be 67 teams that are going to be disappointed like us. These guys battled all season and I’m really proud of them.”