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UWM at Valparaiso

December 11, 2003 Columns No Comments

Panthers down Valparaiso at the End

by Nick Dettmann

VALPARAISO, IND. – In their third game of a four-game road trip, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers took on Mid-Continent Conference powerhouse, and former conference rival, Valparaiso from the Athletics-Recreation Center.

Early on, the contest looked more like a track meet as each team run up and down the court.

“Both teams really got up and down the floor,” Valparaiso head coach Homer Drew said. “They had streaks and we had streaks. But at the end, their experience shined through.”

Trailing 74-65 with 4:55 left in the game, the Panthers showed that experience as they went on a 16-2 run in the next three minutes to secure an 86-82 win on Wednesday night. The loss for Valparaiso is its third loss in four games on the current five-game home stand.

Valparaiso jumped out to the quick start as they opened with a 9-3 lead. But the Panthers got back into the game and tied the score at 12 with 14:49 left in the opening stanza. From that point, the lead for either was rarely more than five.

Dylan Page had a game-high 20 points and Ed McCants had 19 to lead UWM. For the Crusaders, Joaquim Gomes led the Crusaders with 19 points and 10 rebounds, as well as a career-high 5 blocks, and Dan Oppland also had a double-double with 14 points and 10 boards,

Hurting the Panthers cause early was foul trouble. Joah Tucker had three fouls and Adrian Tigert and Chris Hill each had two going into the second half.

Valparaiso was very strong in keeping the Panthers on the perimeter as UWM could not get the ball inside to Dylan Page or Tigert.

Milwaukee held onto a 36-33 lead, their biggest of the half, with just over five minutes to go. Then, it was the host Crusaders that came back to take the lead on a three-point trey by Seth Colclasure.

Valparaiso threatened to go into the locker room with a 41-38 lead, but a long two-point bucket by Hill narrowed the gap to 41-40 with three seconds left, giving UWM some momentum.

“They attacked our pressure so well in the first half,” UWM head coach Bruce Pearl said. “And their defense bothered us.

“Valparaiso played so hard. I hope to not count even on one hand the number of times another team matches our intensity. But they clearly matched our intensity tonight.”

Former Marquette player Ron Howard got 10 of his 15 points in the first half in just 15 minutes of work on the night for the Crusaders. As for the Panthers, Ed McCants scored 11 of his 19 in the first half to lead the early UWM charge.

The start of the second half was much like the start of the first as both teams were quick on their transition and fast-break trying to set the tempo. But, the Crusaders hit an early obstacle as the brown and gold was hit with five fouls in the first two minutes of the half. At one point in the first 10, the Crusaders had eight team fouls compared to just two by UWM.

“I think that gave them some momentum,” Drew said. “But I don’t think that was a key, because we were able to come back from that.”

But things were not all pretty for UWM early in the half as Tucker committed his fourth foul with 17:59 left, forcing Pearl to use his bench, which turned out to be a saving grace.

“Our bench helped us out tonight,” Pearl said. “Mark Pancratz, Nate Mielke, all of them played very well.” The bench scored 23 points for Pearl’s squad.

Tucker had to sit on the bench for the better part of 13 minutes, but that did not bother the former Nicolet High School star.

“I was getting anxious, but I didn’t want to mess up with what the bench was doing,” Tucker said. “They played so well. I knew my time would come.”

After UWM opened up a 56-50 lead with 13:50 left, the Crusaders got back into the game on two consecutive three-pointers from Gomes, tying the score back up at 56 and igniting what had begun to be a silent crowd.

Tied at 61 with 9:57 left, the home team took command as they looked to close the game as they would jump out on a 13-4 run to lead the them to their biggest lead of the night with 4:55 left.

“I think the difference for us was rebounding and our free throws,” Drew said. “Being able to close out games is something we are going to learn as we have nine freshmen and sophomores. But I am very pleased.”

With five minutes and change remaining, Pearl inserted Tucker back into the line-up to try and ignite a spark. And Pearl might have just blown a fuse after the impact Tucker made.

Down nine, Tucker helped spearhead a run that got UWM back into and ahead for good.

“We did not match-up well with him,” Drew said about Tucker. “We tried a couple different people on him, but we just couldn’t stop him. Down the stretch, he was the key.”

According to Drew, a big difference maker at the end was when UWM went from man-to-man to zone and Valparaiso struggled to mount any offense.

“I went with zone because I felt that they were getting too comfortable in man and I hoped it would disrupt them a little bit,” Pearl said. “Luckily it did.”

“I didn’t have our team prepared for when they went to zone,” Drew said. “That is my fault not preparing our guys for that situation. We showed our youthfulness. We ended up taking difficult shots and the momentum stayed in their favor.”


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