The Milwaukee Panthers lost to the UIC Flames in spectacular fashion on senior night, never once taking the lead.
The energy at the U.S. Cellular arena was high before the game on Tuesday night. Many fans came to the home finale, seizing the last opportunity to see their favorite seniors play one last time in the arena. Seniors Jordan Aaron, Kyle Kelm, Malcolm Moore, Thierno Niang, Mitch Roelke and Quinton Gustavson were presented framed jerseys as mementos of their time on the team.
Jordan Aaron returned after serving three games of a four game long suspension for a violation of team rules. Aaron will be inactive for the season finale at Detroit before being fully reinstated for the Horizon League tournament.
But the team seemed to lack chemistry that night.
“I’ve seen senior nights like this before, but you just hope it doesn’t happen to you,” head coach Rob Jeter said at the post-game press conference. “I’ve been a part of them, but I’ve seen them, where emotionally, you see guys are just not there.”
He went on to credit the Flames for their grit, coming to defeat the once-contending Panthers at home on senior night.
The game took an awkward start with a botched tipoff, and UIC took possession on the second one. Opportunity struck for the Panthers when UIC traveled on their first possession. However, forward Matt Tiby failed to capitalize when he missed the open three.
UIC scored on their second possession, and the momentum stayed in their favor for most of the half.
Tiby took the shot on Milwaukee’s second possession, but missed again. Then, McWhorter committed the first foul just 1:25 into the game. Kelm was the first Panther to get on the board with two in the paint. By now, the Flames were up 7-2 and looked nothing like a team with a conference 0-14 record.
The teams went back-and-forth for a few possessions, but UIC continued to pull away from Milwaukee. Kelsey Barlow scored his first five consecutive shots and only missed one of his first eight attempts. He led the team in scoring with 18 points in the first half. He also led the team in fouls with three, including a technical on Milwaukee guard Jevon Lyle.
Lyle laid down some trash talk after the foul, achieving a technical foul of his own and offsetting Barlow’s. Tiby was on the bench for a few minutes in the first half, but made some noise just before halftime. He was 0-6 from the field, but scored 9 points in the final minutes.
Things went from bad to worse for the Panthers in the second half. The team seemed to be play worse defensively. Senior guard Roelke tried to hit Austin Arians at the perimeter, but sent the ball out of Arians’ reach and out of bounds.
The story stayed the same for the rest of the half. It was filled with miscommunication on both sides of the ball and 16-26 shooting from the foul line.
Kelm’s team-high 12 points, despite being the second most points of the game, weren’t enough to keep fans in their seats. They began filing out with 10 minutes left to play. To their credit, the Panthers trailed by over 20 points for most of the second half. They ultimately fell to UIC 80-58, which was the Flames’ first conference win of the season.
Milwaukee was outclassed in the match, shooting just 31% compared to UIC’s 51% efficiency.
UIC’s Barlow was the star of the game, scoring 23 points on 8-10 shooting overall, 3-4 from the key. He also made all four of his free throws, grabbed four rebounds and provided four assists. Coach Jeter commended him on his play Tuesday and for the season after the game.
Milwaukee has now lost four straight, dropping to 7th place in the Horizon League standings. The Panthers play Detroit for their final game before the Horizon League tournament on Thursday night.