Basketball Run Ends
Team's post-season hopes dashed
By Joshua March
After a historic run in the Horizon League Tournament, becoming the lowest seeded team to win the tourney, the UW-Milwaukee Panthers were unable to keep the momentum going in the NCAA Tournament’s Second Round. Villanova beat Milwaukee in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday night in Buffalo.
Villanova went on a 14-point run late in the first half into the second half of the game which deflated the hopes of UW-Milwaukee and the fans who were decked out in their signature black- and-gold.
Villanova Forward JayVaughn Pinkston started the game 1-of-5 shooting in the first half. Pinkston finally started to get hot in the second half, scoring the final six points of the Wildcats run. Before the game there was concern with how the Panthers would matchup against Pinkston.
The loss ends the Panthers season with a record of 21 wins and 14 losses. This was Milwuakee’s six appearance in the NCAA Tournament, and the first since 2006. Senior Guard Jordan Aaron was named to the Second Team of the All Horizon League.
“He’s very talented, can really put a lot of pressure on you at the rim,” Panthers Head Coach Rob Jeter said before the game. “He’s just a matchup nightmare because he can really move and he’s so slippery around the basket.”
An estimated 500 Panther fans made the trip from Milwaukee to Buffalo to cheer on the Panthers play, along with many of the fans that stayed throughout the previous games. Panther players went into the crowd after the game in recognition of the fans that came out to see them.
“It’s an awesome feeling when you are traveling from Milwaukee to Buffalo and Villanova is only traveling from Philly and we see as many fans as we had there tonight,” said Forward Austin Arians. “It’s an awesome feeling to know that we have the support of Milwaukee behind us.”
Villanova dominated UW-Milwaukee in the low post and off the bench, outscoring the Panthers by 26 points in the paint and by 17 points off the bench. Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart combined for 22 of Villanova’s 26 points coming from their bench. Four of the five Milwaukee starters played over 30 minutes, with the only exception being forward Matt Tiby.
“We have to give Villanova a lot of credit,” Jeter said. “To be undersized, they do a nice job of fighting and being aggressive. Eventually they just wear you down and I think that’s what happened to us.”
For the game, UWM’s field goal percentage totaled below 30 percent. While the Panthers struggled shooting all night, Villanova turned around their woeful shooting from just over 30 percent in the first half to just over 62 percent shooting in the second half. The Panthers made just one basket over the course of the final five minutes of the game.
“We just struggled in that we couldn’t get a bucket to fall in the last four minutes of the first half,” said Tiby. “We just wanted to come out in the second half with that energy. They were hitting tough shots over us and they were blocking our shots. You have to give credit to them. They had a great game plan and we just couldn’t buy a bucket for a while.
In his final game as a Panther, Aaron struggled with his shooting all night. Aaron went 0-for-7 in the first half and 1-for-8 in the second half. He finished with just six points after playing what many thought was his best basketball during the Horizon League Tournament run.
“You just got to credit Villanova,” Aaron said. “They did a great job of keeping me off balance and staying into me. They did a great job on defense. A lot of shots that I took out there just didn’t fall for me.”
Villanova Head Coach Jay Wright said that his team’s patience and defense allowed them to pull away from Milwaukee toward the end of the game.
“I give them [Milwaukee] a lot of credit,” Wright said. “I was really proud of our guys not make shots and still being able to defend and play hard.”
Villanova went on to lose in the Round of 32 on Saturday night to former Big East Rival Connecticut. Milwaukee experienced a loss that all but one team will experience by the end of the tournament.
“I’m very proud of my team,” said Jeter. “There’s going to be 67 teams that are going to be disappointed like us. These guys battled all season and I’m really proud of them.”