UWM 71, IUPUI 63: Panthers fight their way to weekend sweep, second place in Horizon League
UW-Milwaukee's weekend sweep of IUPUI was a definite study in opposites.
After coasting to victory in the opener on the strength of a 32-point outing from Tafari Simms and 13 three-pointers, the Panthers needed all hands on deck in their rematch with the Jaguars.
All nine players that saw action scored, and UWM shot a season-best 55.8% after shifting its offensive focus back inside the arc as it ground out a 71-63 win at the Klotsche Center on Saturday afternoon.
The Panthers scored eight of the game's final 10 points — all on layups — and held the Jaguars scoreless over the final 2 minutes 28 seconds, finally putting away a game they left up for grabs after committing a flurry of turnovers to open the second half.
"This was a pretty good weekend for our guys," said UWM coach Pat Baldwin, whose team now sits in second place in the Horizon League behind only 7-0 Cleveland State. At 4-1, the Panthers are off to their best conference start since the 2011-12 season.
"Playing in Game 2 of a back-to-back against a team that's hungry and is good with very good players, we knew we were going to be in a dogfight today."
After scoring 11 of the game's first 14 points, it looked like UWM (5-2) might run away and hide once again.
BOX SCORE:Milwaukee 71, IUPUI 63
But IUPUI's Jaylen Minnett and Marcus Burk began firing away in earnest, and by intermission eight of the Jaguars' 13 made baskets had come from beyond the arc in trailing UWM, 40-38.
Momentum then quickly swung in the Jaguars' favor coming out of halftime with the Panthers giving the ball away five times in the first 4½ minutes. IUPUI rattled off 12 straight points, with seven coming from Burks, and all of a sudden UWM was facing a 50-43 deficit.
The run was halted thanks to consecutive three-pointers from freshmen Donovan Newby and Devin Hancock, and two more free throws from Hancock gave the lead back to UWM.
"We uncharacteristically turned the ball over a lot," said Baldwin. UWM committed a season-high 16 in all, leading to 17 IUPUI points. "Then we had a couple of our freshmen who really did a great job of getting us back into the game."
A pretty floater from DeAndre Gholston with 6:42 left put the Panthers in front to stay, but the Jaguars (0-4, 1-4) kept it a one-possession game until a layup from C.J. Wilbourn and a drive from Josh Thomas — both set up by Te'Jon Lucas passes — provided a little breathing room.
After a Minnett baseline floater made it 67-63 with 2:29 remaining, IUPUI finally went cold from deep. Wilbourn and Thomas then finished the Jaguars off with baskets in the lane.
All told, the Panthers finished with 34 points in the paint compared to just 16 for the Jaguars.
"Our main focus was paint touches, and trying to get some easy baskets or get fouled and get to the line," Baldwin said. "Yesterday was one of our better shooting games; today of our 29 field goals, 25 of them were two-pointers.
"Our guys did a great job of that — especially late."
Lucas had another of his well-rounded games with 15 points, five rebounds and four assists and Thomas added 14 points and a team-high seven rebounds.
Simms, Friday's star, got into foul trouble early and finished with six points before fouling out after only 17 minutes.
Barring any more hurdles produced by COVID-19, the Panthers will host Purdue Fort Wayne next weekend as they seek to continue to remain among the leaders in the Horizon League standings.
They could have reinforcements as well, with Courtney Brown Jr. (toe) and Kaleim Taylor (illness) on the mend and UTEP transfer Jordan Lathon poised to make his UWM debut.
"We like that, but we know it's a long season," said Baldwin. "Our guys just want to work. They just want to get better each and every day. We know going into this week there's another task at hand and another good team coming in next weekend, so we have to be ready for that.
"Yeah, 4-1 is great, but I think our guys are looking for greater than that."