Panthers Overcome Flu, Fairfield To Capture BracketBusters Win
Feb. 18, 2012
MILWAUKEE - Paris Gulley scored 19 points and Tony Meier added 18 as the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee overcame a shorthanded roster to claim a 67-63 win over Fairfield Saturday afternoon at the U.S. Cellular Arena.
The Panthers (17-12) led by as many as 18 points but needed to pull the win out at the end.
UWM was minus three players, as starter James Haarsma along with reserves Ryan Haggerty and Christian Wolf were at home with the flu. Kaylon Williams was also battling the same bug and did not start but collected 10 assists in 29 minutes off the bench.
Paris Gulley put Milwaukee ahead for good on a follow-up basket with just over two minutes remaining and UWM's defense did enough from there to give the Panthers their 12th home win of the season.
The Panthers got a wide variety of contributions beyond the scoring of Gulley and Meier. Williams, who missed his pregame Senior Day ceremony to get an IV in the locker room, ran the Panther offense extremely well when on the floor. Demetrius Harris had three points, three rebounds in two blocks in 20 minutes off the bench. And, Kyle Kelm made his return to the starting lineup in place of Haarsma and had eight points, four boards and two blocks in 31 minutes.
"Tonight, we were a team," UWM head coach Rob Jeter said. "There were a lot of good plays. The reminder was just to play defense on the floor down the stretch, and that's how we were able to close it out - with the charge. It's just good to see all of these guys step up and make plays down the stretch."
"It was Senior Night. I was planning on playing and hoping to play, but there before the game I wasn't sure I could," Williams, who spent only a few moments on the court during pregame warmups, said. "So, I decided to get an IV in me and I felt a lot better after that."
Fairfield's comeback from 18 down was capped by a three from Ryan Olander with three minutes remaining, putting the Stags ahead 61-60. Shaquille Boga, who started for the first time in his collegiate career, responded with a pair of free throws on Milwaukee's next offensive possession, putting the Panthers back ahead 62-61 with 2:42 left. Fairfield struck back one more time, going ahead 63-62 on its next possession, but Gulley answered on the other end.
Harris then drew an offensive foul thanks to great defensive position and UWM would not let Fairfield score again. Williams converted on a drive at the other end to push Milwaukee's lead to 66-63 with 1:20 left and Meier eventually sealed the win with a single free throw with 3.4 seconds remaining.
Milwaukee had steadily built a lead over the first 20 minutes. UWM used a 7-0 run to go up 13-6 and then pushed the lead to 21-13 on a basket by Meier with 8:05 left. The advantage grew to 24-15 on a three-point play by Kelm just over a minute later and then a pair of threes from Gulley extended the lead to 30-15. UWM led 30-16 at the half.
A Gulley three to start the second half made it 33-16 and UWM eventually went up 41-23 on a three-pointer by Meier with 15 minutes remaining. The advantage was still 55-40 on a layin by Williams with 8:35 remaining but Fairfield started its big comeback from there. A follow-up basket by Olander brought the Stags to within single digits at 57-49 and two-straight steals that led to points brought Fairfield within two at 60-58. The teams then traded the lead on the next four possessions, with Gulley's follow-up basket sparking the Panthers for their final surge.
"I was really pleased with the start," Jeter said. "Obviously we had some guys that are not with us, that were under the weather. But we really persevered and battled. We seemed to run out of gas a little bit, but Fairfield was relentless. They just kept coming."
The Panthers head back into league play to wrap up the regular season. UWM plays at UIC Thursday night and at Loyola Saturday afternoon.