Panthers Fend Off Crusaders After Big First Half
Feb. 21, 2013
VALPARAISO, Ind. - The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee women's basketball team used a big first half to build a lead and then held off a late charge to defeat Valparaiso University, 75-71, Thursday night at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
Junior Angela Rodriguez made a pair of free throws with 5.0 seconds remaining to put it away for the Panthers (7-16, 3-8 Horizon League) after the Crusaders (9-15, 4-7 Horizon League) used a late 17-3 run to trim the lead down to just two points in the final minute.
"That has usually been us in the past, where we have been down and try to make that amazing comeback," UWM head coach Kyle Rechlicz said. "I just kept telling my team `we can't play passive - at this point in time we have to match their aggressiveness.' We weren't doing those little things at the end of the game. Coach Dorow had their team ready in that situation. I am just glad there wasn't another 30 seconds left in the game."
Rodriguez and junior Emily Decorah paced Milwaukee with 15 points each, with Decorah scoring her entire total on five three-pointers. Sophomore Ashley Green had 11 points and senior Sami Tucker scored 10 points and grabbed a team-best eight rebounds to round out the list of players in double-figures.
Nine players finished in the scoring column, including a season-high nine points by freshman Jordyn Swan.
"Balance is a very key word," Rechlicz said. "At halftime we had 10 assists and that was the biggest thing that I noticed that we were really working together and moving the ball. Any time we have a positive assist-to-turnover ratio, I feel good about where we are at - it means that we are working and getting good shots and being patient."
Tabitha Gerardot and Shaquira Scott each finished with 17 to lead Valparaiso.
Comfortably ahead with just 81 seconds left, Milwaukee led, 70-57, before Valpo made one final desperate rally, using that improbable 17-3 run to get within two before Rodriguez iced it with the free throws.
Milwaukee, which came into the game sixth in the NCAA with its 8.7 made three-pointers per game, connected on 12 more tonight, none bigger than back-to-back three's from Decorah that pushed the Panther lead back to 62-47 with 4:34 to play.
UWM held a comfortable lead to start the second half, but a six-minute drought without a field goal finally came to a close on a Rodriguez jumper with 6:36 to play that made it 56-45 and pushed the advantage back over 10.
Milwaukee used a terrific first half to build its initial lead. The Panthers played one of their most complete halves of the season, making an impressive eight three-pointers in the first half alone, sinking 53.3 percent (16-for-30) of their field goal attempts overall. They got great balance, as eight players scored and were led by Green with nine.
"Every single person was coming in the first half and really making an impact," Rechlicz said. "Everybody came in and gave us something - whether it was defense or offense. I couldn't be more proud when a group steps up like that together."
In addition, tough defense helped out, forcing the Crusaders into 36.7 percent (11-for-30) field goal shooting before the halftime horn while also forcing nine turnovers.
The teams traded 8-0 runs to start the contest, with UWM using a trio of three's to cap a 9-4 run to build a lead, 17-12, on back-to-back triples by Swan.
It went back and forth from there, with three ties and six lead changes taking place before the game was again back even at 27-27 with 5:47 to play. Milwaukee would use a 13-1 run en route to scoring 17 of the final 20 points of the period and take a 44-30 lead into the locker room. That 14-point advantage marked the largest halftime lead of the season for Milwaukee.
Up next, the Panthers remain on the road next, traveling to Ohio for a contest against Wright State University Saturday. Tip off is set for 3:30 p.m. CST.