It was a game that never should have been close. After comfortably beating Youngstown State by double digits, the Panthers seemed to be on their way to back to back dominant victories in the state of Ohio. This time against Cleveland State, Milwaukee was up by as many as 18 points in the second half before surrendering the lead late and barely squeaking by Cleveland 65-62 on Saturday afternoon.
The Panthers were able to build a 12 point lead by halftime and put there foot to gas pedal in the second half before the Vikings went on a run.
“It’s always that way in Cleveland,” Milwaukee head coach Rob Jeter said. “Gary Waters is one of the better coaches in this league because he’s tough, his teams are tough and they play you to 40 minutes. That is what happened tonight.”
The Panthers offense clicked throughout the game. Shooting 54.3 percent behind 13 points from Austin Arians, 12 points from J.J. Panoske, and 11 from Matt Tiby. The men began the game on fire, making their first four out of five shots with four of them being threes. Before Cleveland could blink they found themselves down 14-4 early in the first half.
“Our guys came in on the road again and shot well, coming in and playing with confidence has been big,” Jeter said. “I think some of those early road games that we played – some of those tough games that we lost – really helped us tonight. I thought tonight, down the stretch, we were a lot more poised.”
The Panthers seemed all but ready to put the nail in the coffin on the Vikings in the second half before allowing Cleveland to go on a 21-7 run to turn a blow out into a competitive game. With only 8.0 seconds left Milwaukee turned to its defense to save the game as they forced a turnover and escaped the contest with a three point victory.
The Panthers improved their record to 3-1 in conference play and 12-5 overall. The men will continue their play on the road Thursday against a Horizon League preseason favorite, Valparaiso.