Despite leading for the majority of the first half, the Panthers were unable to pull out a victory over Valparaiso Thursday night, falling 68-56.
A 14-0 run for the Crusaders proved to carry over momentum for them in the second half and added to their school-record 21st consecutive victory at home.
Panthers head coach Rob Jeter noted he was glad with how Milwaukee started the game, but discussed the problem of rebounding which put the Panthers in a hole.
“I thought we were good in stretches, but the problem is that Valpo is consistent in what they do and I think that really shows in how they rebound the basketball,” Jeter said.
Jordan Johnson led the Panthers offense with 19 points, combined with six assists. Forward Matt Tiby recorded a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Akeem Springs also reached double figures for Milwaukee with 13 points.
Vashil Fernandez was the lead key for the Crusaders with his 14 points, only one shy of his career high. Milwaukee held Valpo’s leading scorer Alec Peters to only seven points, nearly 11 points below his season average.
Although they got stops on defense in the second half, Milwaukee was unable to get closer than 10 points in the final 16 minutes of the contest.
A crafty shooting percentage of 50 percent from the floor (28-of-56) along with dominance on the boards helped Valpo cruise to victory. The Crusaders outrebounded Milwaukee by 25 (47-22) and came up with 18 offensive rebounds. They shut out the Panthers in the second-chance points category, 20-0.
The teams exchanged back and forth blows in the first ten minutes of the game. All together, the first 10:26 of the game featured a pair of ties and six different lead changes. A corner three from Akeem Springs going into the under-eight media timeout gave the Panthers an 18-16 lead.
Springs followed up with another three, stretching the Milwaukee lead to five at 21-16. Tiby then followed up with a dunk a few possessions later to give Milwaukee a 26-22 lead.
However, after that sequence is where the Panthers’ offense began to go stagnant, connecting on just one field goal which came right at the buzzer by Johnson to snap a 14-0 Valpo run.
“Basketball is a game of runs,” Jeter said. “We have been down before and made runs. We don’t get rattled that way. But we know in order to beat a team of this caliber in this environment, it’s the little things. You have to limit them to one opportunity and we didn’t do that tonight.”
The Panthers close out a stretch of four Horizon League road games in a row with a trip to Chicago to take on UIC.