At one point late in the second half, Kaylon Williams had enough. Time to take over.
And take over he did. Scoring most of his ten points in the second half, Williams slashed to the basket on three possessions for easy buckets, then hit the biggest shot of all, giving Milwaukee a 57-55 victory over Valparaiso at the ARC.
With 45 seconds remaining on the clock, Williams calmly shot the go-ahead three-pointer, got a friendly bounce from a usually unforgiving ARC rim, and went in. It was very reminiscent of the three hit by Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor earlier this month at the Arena in Milwaukee.
Williams ended up one rebound and three assists short of the triple-double, and somehow collected seven assists while I only counted four in the replay. There were a couple mistakes – after all, with the ball in your hands that much mistakes do happen – but overall Williams and Milwaukee did what they have done for much of the season – overcome adversity in a hostile environment and pull out the victory.
It was by no means the best game for Milwaukee – the free throw woes returned, and a failure to box out led directly to six points from Ryan Broekhoff – but the grit and determination of this team won out, the real reason they are 10-4 and 3-0 in the Horizon League.
Ryan Broekhoff had 18 points on 6-of-13 shooting but only really got going once Ryan Allen was put on the bench with his second foul in the first half and drew different defenders in the second. Allen frustrated the senior wing, but Broekhoff found success inside the arc. Against Allen on the perimeter, Broekhoff was 1-of-6 from beyond the arc.
The real game changers for Valparaiso were Kevin Van Wijk and Erik Buggs. The junior post was 5-of-11 from the field and had some pretty great battles on the block with James Haarsma. Buggs used impressive speed to get past Paris Gulley and other defenders. All in all, Buggs did a wonderful job driving the lane and either putting up a shot or finding the open man under the hoop.
Milwaukee got a great shooting performance from Tony Meier. The senior forward bounced back from an 0-10 performance by shooting 5-for-8 from three and 6-for-9 overall. Meier also played stout defense on Van Wijk on the second half while Kyle Kelm was sitting with foul trouble.
Milwaukee overcame many obstacles, not the least of which was a raucous crowd of 2,644 that got extremely loud in the final five minutes of the contest.
Is it just me, or has Valpo become a more important rival than Green Bay? It is obvious that Butler is our conference archrival, but since Valpo joined the conference, the series has been 6-4 in favor of the Panthers, but most of the games have come down to the wire. It was evident last night that this game means a lot not only to the fans in the stands but the players on the court; they certainly get up for us more than other teams, as evidenced by Broekhoff’s quotes in the preview story at the NWI Times yesterday. A large chunk of Valpo’s student body comes from Milwaukee and they have a bigger alumni base in Milwaukee than pretty much every Horizon League opponent. It’s a short, easy road trip that about 50 Milwaukee fans made last night and many Valpo fans will make later this season. It’s not an angry rivalry, at least from our side – I think Green Bay’s fan base is a lot more bitter with us – but to me, this is what college basketball is all about – strong, regional rivals who battle it out in big games with a lot on the line.
What was on the line last night was first place, and Milwaukee prevailed to go to 3-0 and drop the Crusaders to 1-1. A victory tomorrow would be a tremendous leg up for the Panthers in the two hardest road games for Milwaukee in recent memory (along with Wright State and Green Bay).
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