Feb. 27, 2012
The Hot List
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee men's basketball team opens Horizon League Tournament play with a first round contest against UIC Tuesday night.
The Panthers finished the regular season in a three-way tie for third place and are the fourth seed for the league tournament.
UWM enters the postseason riding a four-game winning streak, including a pair of wins in Chicago this past weekend. The Panthers hadn't won four-straight since early December and haven't won five-straight all season.
Milwaukee wrapped up the regular season with a 78-69 win at Loyola Saturday. The Panthers shot better than 59 percent from the field and made 11 three-pointers in the victory.
UWM will be playing UIC for the second time in six days. Thursday night in Chicago, the Panthers captured a 72-61 win. Milwaukee overcame a three-point halftime deficit by outscoring the Flames, 43-29, in the second 20 minutes.
Senior Tony Meier seems to have found his shooting touch over the last six games, making 22-of-37 from three-point range while averaging just over 15 points per game in that span. His performance this past weekend earned him Horizon League Player of the Week honors. As a team, Milwaukee has made 70 three-pointers in its last seven games, including 25 in its two wins this past weekend.
Tuesday's game is being played at the Klotsche Center on campus because of a facility conflict downtown. The Panthers have played two games on campus this season - an exhibition game vs. Parkside and a December game against Nebraska-Omaha.
UWM has battled injury troubles all season long and have been without returning starter Ja'Rob McCallum for the last 25 games and without key reserve Lonnie Boga all season.
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee men's basketball team opens Horizon League Tournament play with a first round game against UIC Tuesday.
The Flames finished the regular season 8-21 overall and 3-15 in the Horizon League ... after snapping a three-game losing streak with a BracketBusters win over Eastern Illinois last Saturday, the Flames lost their final three league games ... UIC is 1-14 on the road this season ... Gary Talton leads the Flames at just under 12 points per game and he also has a team-best 97 assists.
The Division I series between the two schools finds UWM with a slight 23-20 lead ... the two teams have played in some memorable and important contests in recent seasons, including five league tournament meetings ... the Panthers have won nine in a row in the series ... 15 of the last 25 meetings have been decided by eight points or less.
The Other UIC Matchups
UWM claimed a pair of wins over UIC this season but neither one was easy. In the first game Dec. 3, Kyle Kelm scored 18 points and UWM survived a UIC rally and poor free throw shooting down the stretch to claim a 73-71 overtime win. The Panthers led by 11 points with under five minutes to play in regulation but made just 2-of-11 foul shots in the final minutes as the Flames rallied to force overtime. Then, in the extra session, Paris Gulley made a three-pointer with just under a minute to play to put Milwaukee up 69-65. UWM followed by making 4-of-6 from the line while seeing Gary Talton miss a potential game-winning shot at the buzzer. Then last Thursday in Chicago, Kaylon Williams scored 19 points and added 10 assists as UWM claimed a 72-61 win. Tony Meier pitched-in with 17 points for the Panthers, who outscored the Flames, 43-29, in the second half. The Panthers made 14 three-pointers and buckled down on defense in claiming the win.
How We Got Here
UWM rode a bit of a roller-coaster through the 2011-12 Horizon League schedule. The Panthers won six of their first seven league games and stood alone in first place on Jan. 15. Milwaukee proceeded to drop six of its next eight to land in danger of falling out of a home game in the league tournament. But, the Panthers rallied to win their final three league contests, including a pair on the road. UWM officially wound up in a third-place tie in the final standings, finishing as the fourth seed after tiebreakers.
UWM put together number of nice performances outside of league play this season, posting an 8-5 mark against non-league foes. The Panthers claimed their first win over a BCS foe since 2006 when UWM rolled past DePaul in December, shooting better than 60 percent from the floor in an 87-76 win. The Panthers also own a road win at Arkansas-Little Rock, which has been leading its division of the Sun Belt Conference much of the season. Also noteworthy was UWM's effort against nationally-ranked Wisconsin, as the Panthers had the game tied in the final minutes before falling, 60-54. Most recently, UWM snapped Fairfield's six-game winning streak in claiming a BracketBusters victory.
An Injury-Plagued Year
The injury bug has hit the Panthers all season long. In all, returning letterwinners wound up missing 67 games because of injury this season. Lonnie Boga has missed the entire year with a shoulder injury while Ja'Rob McCallum has been sidelined for the last 25 games by a wrist injury. The walking wounded has also included Tony Meier (six games - calf), Kyle Kelm (two games - shoulder) and Evan Richard (six games - back and ankle). Then, to cap it all off, James Haarsma, Ryan Haggerty and Christian Wolf all missed the BracketBusters game against Fairfield because of the flu.
Now the Panthers are turning their attention toward the Horizon League Tournament and find themselves as the fourth seed. All-time, Milwaukee is 13-13 in the league tournament, with titles in 2003, 2005 and 2006 as well runner-up performances in 2004 and 2011. Milwaukee is 9-3 all-time in league tournament games at home, with a 2-1 mark in home first round games. For UWM's full league tournament history, see pages 8-9 of these notes.
Kickin' It At Klotsche
A facility conflict at the U.S. Cellular Arena has UWM returning to its on-campus Klotsche Center to play this league tournament game. It will mark the first-ever men's league tournament game in the building and UIC will become the first league opponent to play the Panthers on campus since the end of the 2003-04 season, when UWM rolled past Cleveland State in the regular season finale. UWM has played twice on campus this season, beating UW-Parkside in an exhibition game in November before making 15 three-pointers in knocking off Nebraska-Omaha in a regular season game in December. The Panthers did have a 16-game winning streak at the Klotsche Center snapped when Western Michigan beat Milwaukee on "Retro Night" last season, but Milwaukee has won 44 of its last 54 regular season games in the building. On a side note, the current capacity of the Klotsche Center following construction of the Pavilion and other changes to the facility is a little over 3,200.
Quest For 20 Wins
UWM finds itself one win away from hitting the 20-win milestone for the second time in three seasons. And, last year, UWM won the league title and wound up at 19 wins. Should Milwaukee get to the 20-win mark, it would be just the 11th time in 115 years of basketball at the school where the team has recorded 20 or more victories in a season. Plus, it would be Rob Jeter's third 20-win season as a head coach, with Bruce Pearl the only other UWM coach to post three 20-win seasons.
Peaking At The Right Time?
Once again it seems like the Panthers are stepping up their play at just the right time of year. Milwaukee is 5-2 in the month of February this season and UWM has a four-game winning streak. The win streak equals the longest of the year for the Panthers. Meanwhile, UWM also went 6-1 last February and 5-3 the February before, meaning the Panthers have won 16 of their last 22 February games.
Happy To Be Home
UWM has spent plenty of time on the road over the final month of the regular season so the Panthers will be quite happy to be at home Tuesday. In fact, the Panthers played five of their final six league games away from home, though three of the five were day-trips. With its wins at UIC and Loyola, Milwaukee has now won 13 of its last 21 league regular season road games. But, of course, Milwaukee has been even better at home. The Panthers posted a 12-3 home mark during the regular season this year and are one win away from tying a school record for home wins in a season.
Three Milwaukee seniors - Tony Meier, Kaylon Williams and Ryan Allen - are all hoping to extend their college careers for as long as possible in the postseason.
Meier is a four-year standout for UWM who has played in 116 games and made 94 starts. He went past 1,000 career points with a 26-point performance at Loyola Saturday and now has 1,011 career points. He also has 465 career rebounds and has made 182 three-pointers. Meier has been hot of late, having reached double figures in six-straight games while making 22 of his last 37 from three-point range. He is also a standout in the classroom, having earned Capital One Academic All-District 6 honors as a business major with a 3.65 grade-point average.
Williams has started 62 games in his two seasons and became UWM's all-time Division I assists leader two weeks ago. He has added 28 assists in the three games since and now has 374 assists in his career. This season he has 196, a total that is now the single-season UWM Division I record. Williams also has 602 points in his two years in Milwaukee and, if you include his one season at Evansville, the guard has 798 points and 525 assists in three years of Division I basketball. Williams was on the league's all-newcomer team last season and earned a spot on the all-league team this season.
Allen was a key reserve a year ago and has now started every game this season, earning a place on the league's all-defensive team. He has 425 career points and 241 rebounds and has tied the single-season blocks record, having tallied 37 blocks so far. He set a single-game record for blocks earlier this season when he collected six against Marquette, a game in which he also had 16 points and 13 rebounds.
A Decade-Plus Of Horizon Success
Over the last 12 years, Milwaukee and Butler have established themselves as the top two programs in the Horizon League. In fact, since 2000-01, Milwaukee has the second-most league wins behind Butler and those are the only two schools to average more than 10 league wins per season. UWM has been below .500 in league play just once in 12 years - only Butler can also make that claim. And, Milwaukee has now won 10 or more league games in nine of 12 years while winning four regular season crowns. The standings over the last 12 years, including Youngstown State (joined 2001) and Valparaiso (2007).
Butler 149 51
Milwaukee 130 70
Wright State 113 87
Green Bay 99 101
Detroit 98 102
Cleveland State 91 109
UIC 84 116
Loyola 75 125
Youngstown State 49 137
Valparaiso 51 35
The Last Time Out
Tony Meier scored 26 points and UWM shot better than 59 percent from the field in claiming a 78-69 win over Loyola Saturday afternoon at the Gentile Arena. Paris Gulley added 19 points, making five 3-pointers, while James Haarsma pitched-in with 14. Milwaukee jumped to a 15-point first-half lead but saw Loyola get within one midway through the second half. But the Panthers responded with 16-7 run to restore order and then made 10-of-10 from the foul line in the final minute to hang on for their fourth-straight win.
Shooting The Three
Milwaukee has been finding its touch more and more from long range of late. In fact, the Panthers have made 70 three-pointers in their last seven games, a stretch in which Milwaukee is shooting 45.5 percent (70-of-154) from beyond the arc. UWM made 14 three-pointers Thursday night at UIC, its second-highest total of the season, and then added 11 more Saturday at Loyola. The Panthers have now hit double figures in three-pointers made 10 times, with its season-high at 15 in a win over Nebraska-Omaha in December.
It's All About The Defense
UWM's defense has been good all year long, allowing the Panthers to put together a long list of stellar defensive efforts.
- 12 of UWM's opponents have failed to get to 60 points. That happened just five times all of last season. UWM has also now held five opponents under 50 points.
- Milwaukee has now held two opponents to fewer than 40 points, the first time in the modern era (post-1940's) that has occurred. UWM held three opponents under 40 points in 1948-49.
- The Panthers have held 22 of their opponents to under 44 percent shooting, with 15 failing to reach 40 percent. UWM has also held a pair of league opponents to under 30 percent.
- Milwaukee is chasing down the best defensive season in Division I history, with the current lows at 64.3 ppg (2004-05) and 65.1 ppg (2000-01). The lowest points per game in the last 30 years was in 1982-83, when UWM gave up just 60.7 points per contest.
- The Panthers have never finished a season holding opponents to less than 30 percent shooting from three-point range.
UWM is 14-2 this season when Kaylon Williams has at least seven assists ... the Panthers are 14-4 in games Gulley makes a three-pointer and 9-2 when he reaches double figures ... UWM is still shooting just 61.6 percent from the foul line but has made 113-of-156 (72.4 percent) from the line in their last six games ... UWM is now 7-4 this season and 37-22 under Rob Jeter in games decided by five points or less ... Milwaukee has won five games when scoring fewer than 60 points. The last time Milwaukee won that many times with less than 60 points was all the way back in 1950-51 ... the 36-point margin of victory against UNO surpassed the 35-point margin in UWM's win over Texas Southern and was the biggest since a 41-point win over Youngstown State in 2006 ... this is also the first time since 2004-05 Milwaukee has tallied at least two wins of 30 or more points ... the Panthers have had double-digit leads in the second half of three of their seven league losses.
Tuesday's winner plays either Butler or Wright State in a second round game Friday at Valparaiso.