Jordan Aaron’s runner at the horn the bounced off the backboard and rim before falling away, allowing Wright State to hang on for a 53-51 win over the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Saturday night at the Nutter Center.
The Panthers led much of the way but a late three-pointer by Cole Darling gave Wright State (11-4, 2-0 Horizon) an advantage they would never give back.
Demetrius Harris had 14 points and 10 rebounds to lead Milwaukee (4-12, 0-2), with Paris Gulley adding 13 and Jordan Aaron 12.
Reggie Arceneaux had 15 points and Darling 14 for the Raiders.
Darling’s three-pointer came with 2:10 remaining and put Wright State up 51-49. The Raiders eventually led 53-49 before a pair of James Haarsma free throws cut the lead to 53-51 with just over a minute remaining. UWM then got the ball back after Arceneaux missed two free throws, setting up a final play.
After first trying to get Gulley free for a shot, Aaron drove right with the clock winding down. But, his shot fell off, allowing Wright State to claim the win.
“We wanted to put the ball in Paris’ hands (to start) to give him a chance to make a play. If we didn’t have that, we had some options with J.J. (Panoske) in the game picking and spreading. And then with Jordan being able to make a one-on-one play, I thought we got a pretty good look,” Milwaukee head coach Rob Jeter said. “We made a reversal and we got them scrambling, but we took a runner instead of a pull-up shot. That’s probably the only thing I would have rather seen - maybe a stop-and-pop instead of a runner to the rim.”
Milwaukee had itself in position to win thanks to one of its best defensive efforts of the season. The Panthers held Wright State to 41.5 percent shooting while forcing 16 turnovers as UWM played 40 minutes of zone defense.
“We had a few opportunities where a couple of their smaller guys got on the interior and we gave them a chance for some free throws. But other than that I thought we did a phenomenal job guarding their perimeter, knowing that they’re going to make some shots, especially in a zone,” Jeter said. “I’m proud of the guys for putting themselves in that position. We’ve been battling all season, so to come in here and play a team like Wright State and take it to the wire – I liked the guys’ effort.”
The Panthers had some opportunities to open up a bigger lead early in the first half. Milwaukee went up 16-10 on a pair of Gulley free throws with eight minutes left, but Wright State scored seven of the next eight points to tie the game. UWM then extended the lead back to 28-23 at the half, as Harris converted a three-point play and Aaron knocked home two free throws.
Wright State grabbed a lead early in the second half but the Panthers restored a 42-39 lead on a Harris free throw with 6:11 remaining. Milwaukee’s lead hit 47-43 on a Haarsma follow-up basket with 3:25 remaining and was still 49-46 on a Gulley free throw with 3:04 left.
But Wright State answered on the next two possessions to reclaim the lead and then held off Milwaukee in the closing minute.
The Panthers’ did get one of the best games of the season out of Harris, who tallied his second double-double of the year while adding three steals. He was extremely active on both offense and defense. All evening.
“Meech did a nice job of being patient and rolling into the post, and a nice job of catching the ball and finishing in there,” Jeter said. “He has some abilities and tonight he was able to show what he can do when he is strong with the ball around the basket.”
Milwaukee now gets a full week off before hosting Valparaiso Saturday afternoon. That contest tips off at 1 p.m. and will be televised across the Midwest as part of the Horizon League Game of the Week package.