Panthers Use Dominant Defensive Effort In Win Over Valpo
Feb. 25, 2012
MILWAUKEE - The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee women's basketball team allowed the fewest points in program history in claiming a 50-31 victory over Valparaiso University Saturday afternoon at the Klotsche Center.
The strong defensive effort by the Panthers (9-18, 5-11 Horizon League) limited the Crusaders (8-19, 4-12 Horizon League) to 22.0 percent shooting from the floor and 5.6 percent from three-point range on the day. In addition to yielding the fewest points in school history, the opponent field goal percentage was the second-lowest ever recorded.
"I thought our players came out with great tenacity and intensity on the offensive and defensive end," UWM head coach Sandy Botham said. "We are stringing together some good defensive efforts and it's what wins games. And our players are really taking it to heart and getting it done. I am just really happy for our team right now."
Kiki Wilson entered play tied with Teri Stoltenberg (1997-98) for the most assists as a freshman in school history with 104. She added four on the day, with the record-breaker coming on a Rodriguez jumper at the 10:47 mark of the first.
Tabitha Gerardot had a team-high 11 points for Valparaiso and added eight rebounds. Gina Lange collected a game-high 10 rebounds while chipping in with six points.
The Crusaders came out early and led, 8-5, at the 16:09 mark on a layup by Gerardot. From there, it was all Panthers, using an 18-2 run to take control. They eventually outscored Valpo, 21-8, the rest of the half to lead by 10 at intermission at 26-16.
"We talked about keeping our focus and intensity and not being satisfied," Botham said. "That's where I think we have grown. We are playing more consistent basketball for 40 minutes and we are getting our confidence. We are sharing the ball and lots of people are stepping up."
The defense was so impressive that it held the Crusaders without a field goal from the 12:54 mark until just 2:15 remained in the first, a span of 10 minutes and 39 seconds. In fact, the 16 first-half points allowed was the fourth-lowest in school history.
The second half was never in doubt. UWM opened on a 9-2 run to take a 35-18 lead on a layup by sophomore Courtney Lindfors with 14:28 to go.
The team eventually built that advantage to its biggest of the game at 22 (50-28) with about three minutes to play. The Panthers were able to empty the bench down the stretch, handily winning back-to-back games to improve the streak to wins in three of their past four.
"It's great timing to get three out of four heading into the last week - the timing couldn't be better," Botham said. "You want to be playing your best basketball at the end of the season and that is what we are seeing."
The 31 points allowed was easily the lowest in UWM's NCAA Division I era (since 1990-91). The former mark was 34 points, coming against Wright State March 8, 2001. The 22.0 percent (11-of-50) field goal defense was second only to a 19.4 percent (13-of-67) performance against Youngstown State March 6 of 2010.
It was a great afternoon overall for Milwaukee, outrebounding its opponent, 39-33, and also recording 18 assists compared to 15 turnovers. The defense also forced 15 miscues, resulting in eight steals.
Freshman Ashley Green added nine points and five rebounds for the Panthers, who also got six points, three rebounds and three assists from Alex Klawitter - the lone member of the "Senior Day" at the Klotsche Center. The assist and rebound totals were season-highs and came in front of a large crowd of about 50 family and friends who made the trip from Janesville to see Klawitter compete in her final regular season home game.
"I was happy for Alex," Botham said. "She has committed so much to our program and that was kind of the theme for the week - do it for Alex."
With back-to-back victories, the Panthers have climbed from 10th to seventh in the Horizon League standings as they prepare for the final week of the regular season. Up next, UWM heads to UIC Thursday for a 7 p.m. tip.