The Milwaukee Panthers (10-16, 5-7 Horizon) took on the first place Valparaiso Crusaders (24-4, 11-2 Horizon) in a Horizon League showdown on Sunday, February 15 at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. After leading for most of the game, the Panthers ended up losing the game 62-55, ending their five game home winning streak.
“It was a tale of two halves” Head Coach Rob Jeter said of the game. Milwaukee got out to a good start by going up 12-5 with 10:45 left in the first half. Milwaukee then connected on 3-point baskets on back-to-back possessions by forward J.J. Panoske and forward Matt Tiby to take a 24-18 lead with 4:07 to go in the first half.
Heading into halftime, Milwaukee controlled a 28-23 lead. Milwaukee shot 50% from the field (10 for 20) and only let Valparaiso lead for just 28 seconds. Valparaiso shot just 27.6% from the field (8 for 29).
Things did not stay the same for Valparaiso in the second half. “First half we shot the ball well, second half they were lights out.” stated Jeter.
Valparaiso made 7 out of their first 10 shots in the second half to tie the game 40-40 with 11:45 to go in the second half after two free throws from guard E. Victor Nickerson. Valparaiso then took their first lead of the game on a layup from guard Keith Carter to make the score 44-43 with 9 minutes to go. After an 11-2 run capped off by a bucket from guard Darien Walker, Valparaiso took control in the second half to make the score 51-45 with 4:55 left.
Milwaukee cut the lead to 55-51 after a 3-point basket by guard Steve McWhorter with 1:09 to go in the game, but that’s as close as they would get.
Darien Walker led the way with 18 points and forward Alec Peters added 15 points and 8 rebounds for Valparaiso. Tiby and McWhorter led Milwaukee with 14 points apiece and J.J. Panoske added 10 points.
“Defense means everything, especially in this league. It comes down to stops. We didn’t get stops, and we get the result that we got tonight.” said Tiby after the game.
Coach Jeter also stated, “If you’re going to beat the best team in the league, especially down the stretch, you have to be a little more efficient.”
After losing to Valparaiso 73-48 in their first meeting this year, Jeter emphasized how proud he was of his team saying, “We were not in the game the first time we played Valpo. We were in this game for most of the night. Are we disappointed we lost, yes, but not discouraged. We just didn’t make the right plays down the stretch”
Milwaukee’s next game is at Illinois-Chicago (7-20, 3-9 Horizon) on Thursday, February 19.