Inside Play Solid As Panthers Hold Off Vikings
Jan. 17, 2009
MILWAUKEE - James Eayrs scored 23 points and Anthony Hill added 20 as the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee held off a furious rally by Cleveland State to claim a 77-75 win Saturday night at the U.S. Cellular Arena.
The Panthers (12-6, 7-1 Horizon) led by 19 points with 4:51 remaining only to see the Vikings (13-7, 4-4) have a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds.
Instead, a jumper by Trevon Harmon hit the rim and bounced out of bounds, with the Panthers inbounding easily to run out the final 0.3 on the clock.
For much of the night, it was an excellent performance by Milwaukee, which along with Green Bay remains on the heels of Butler for the top spot in the Horizon League. The Panthers led by double digits for nearly the entire second half and wound up shooting 50 percent for the game.
But, UWM wound up having to put together one final defensive stop to claim its ninth win in its last 11 outings. It left the Panthers with a 4-1 homestand, a spot near the top of the league standings and great efforts on the interior from Hill and Eayrs.
"We've been talking about our post play and the need to establish some things inside," UWM head coach Rob Jeter said. "Anthony and big James are our two biggest threats in there, and tonight it was great to see Anthony, who has been up and down a bit, though his effort has been consistent. I was glad to see he was rewarded tonight."
Norris Cole scored 21 points, J'Nathan Bullock 19 and Cedric Jackson 17 to go with 10 assists for the Vikings, who were the preseason league favorites but have split their first eight league contests.
The game-ending flurry by the Vikings started after a layup by Eayrs made it 73-54 with 4:51 remaining. Cleveland State countered with four-straight three-pointers, the final one coming from Harmon, cutting the lead to 73-66 with 3:08 left. The Vikings eventually pulled within two points after a steal by Jackson and a layin by Cole with a minute left. CSU then stopped Milwaukee and had the ball for a final shot, but Harmon's long two bounced away.
The Panthers made nine of their first 11 shots in bolting to a 21-9 lead in the first eight minutes. Then, after Cleveland State fought back to tie the game at 28, Milwaukee scored eight of the final 12 points to carry at 37-32 lead into the locker room.
A three by Tone Boyle pushed the lead back to 10 early in the second half and a three by Eayrs made it 55-42 with just over 12 minutes to play. The lead hit 66-48 on a pair of Eayrs free throws and was at 19 with just under six minutes to play. The teams then traded baskets before the Cleveland State surge made things very interesting in the closing moments.
"I thought for 37 minutes we played a disciplined game," Jeter said. "We did a lot of things right. The other team - you know they are going to start firing three-pointers. We just didn't get them out of a rhythm."
UWM hits the road next week, heading to Indiana for contests with Valparaiso and Butler. Thursday's contest with Valpo starts at 7 p.m. and can be seen live in Time Warner Cable Sports 32.