After winning their last two games by 30+ points each against Cleveland State and Youngstown State, the UW-Milwaukee Panthers were in a much tougher and closer contest Friday night.
The Panthers battled the Valparaiso Crusaders, first-place in the Horizon League, to the final seconds in a game that needed five extra minutes to determine the winner. In the end, the Crusaders came out on top in an 80-76 overtime thriller at the UWM Panther Arena.
Neither team led by more than six points in a back-and-forth affair. Valparaiso had last possession in regulation with the game tied at 61-61. Alec Peters’ mid-range shot was denied, and Milwaukee’s Akeem Springs grabbed the ball with under 10 seconds to go. With the clock winding down, Springs dribbled the ball the length of the court and missed a running mid-range jump shot at the buzzer that would have won the game.
“The game’s going so fast, the clock’s running so fast that you just don’t know,” Jeter said. “You just want to make sure you get a shot up, and Akeem got a shot up. So that’s all you can ask. But another second definitely would have helped,” said Milwaukee head coach Rob Jeter.
In overtime, the teams once again were going back-and-forth hitting clutch three-point shots. With 38 seconds remaining, Valparaiso’s Keith Carter hit a three-point shot to give the Crusaders the lead 76-74 in which they would not relinquish.
“It was a great game,” Jeter said. “Obviously, we are disappointed right now. But I thought we did some nice things to put ourselves in position to win a game again. The law of averages says we have to win one of these, so maybe it’s coming. But these guys battled. It’s just unfortunate that we didn’t get it done.”
Matt Tiby led the way for Milwaukee with 21 points and six rebounds. J.J. Panoske had 15 points, Akeem Springs added 14 points, and Jordan Johnson ended the night with 11 points, six rebounds and seven assists despite playing the majority of the second half with four fouls.
Reigning Horizon League and CBSSports.com National Player of the Week honoree Alec Peters had a game-high 23 points (5 three’s) with six rebounds for Valparaiso. Darien Walker added 15 points off the bench, and Carter finished with 14.
“This was a tournament type game. I’m really proud of the resilience of our team. There were many times in this game that we could’ve folded, but Alec (Peters) and Keith (Carter) came up big with big offensive plays for us,” said Valparaiso head coach Bryce Drew. “Games like this basically boil down to who makes the shots at the end. They had some three’s that didn’t go in, and we had some big three’s that Alec and Keith made down the stretch.”
Valparaiso improved to 25-5 on the year (15-2 Horizon League) and have clinched their fourth league title in the past five seasons.
With the loss, Milwaukee drops to 18-12 (9-8 Horizon League). They have one more regular season game before the Horizon League Tournament in which they host UIC for “Senior Day” this Sunday. Milwaukee’s seniors that will be honored are Tiby, Panoske, and J.R. Lyle. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m.