MKE outpaces Loyola, captures No. 4 seed

Tony Meier calmly stood at the free throw line as he had done 200 times before. He accepted the ball on a bounce from the official, dribbled a couple times and dropped in a swoosh.

The Black and Gold fan base behind the bench exploded, because it was the 1,000th point of Tony Meier’s career. It was that kind of day for the Milwaukee Panthers, who rode out an extensive scoreless streak and came out in the “W” column, 78-79 over Loyola.

Milwaukee point guard Kaylon Williams also set the single-season assists mark, passing Marc Mitchell and ended the game with 196 assists on the season. This was in addition to the career D-I mark that Williams set last week.

Milwaukee began the game trading blows with Loyola before a 7-7 tie became a 23-9 lead. That lead gradually evaporated as the Ramblers fought back to bring it within six at 32-26 to end the first half.

Coming out of the gate, the Panthers kept Loyola at arm’s length, extending the lead all the way to 41-31 before the Ramblers fought back. Loyola’s brand new Gentile Arena was deafening as Loyola brought the game within one at 44-43, but on their next offensive possession Loyola’s Jonathon Gac drove the lane and missed a lay-up, with the Panthers gaining possession in a scrum underneath the basket.

A long break in the action happened in the second half when Ben Averkamp swung his right elbow in front of him, striking James Haarsma under his nose and causing him to bleed. Play continued until a stoppage, when coach Rob Jeter pointed out to the officials that Haarsma was injured. While trainer Elliott Meyer attended to Haarsma’s wound, referees reviewed the video and concluded that Averkamp committed a flagrant foul, with Haarsma to take free throws.

Things got chippy in the second half, with Tony Meier and Porter Moser each drawing technical fouls for separate incidents. Once the Panthers had begun to really pull away with minutes remaining, things calmed down and by the time the buzzer sounded, everyone was friends again. Which is what we all wanted.

The Panthers wrapped up the #4 seed of the Horizon League Tournament following their victory. Had Cleveland State dropped the ball against Wright State, the Panthers would have been the #3 seed, but all in all they tied for third place and will open the tournament on Tuesday at the Klotsche Center against UIC.

It is the first time the conference tournament has ever been staged on the campus of UWM, and is a perfect chance for a send-off as the Panthers try to win the Horizon League Championship.

Box Score:

Milwaukee Panthers
Tony Meier 36 8-12 6-9 4-4 0 6 1 2 1 1 2 26
James Haarsma 24 4-6 0-1 6-8 0 2 2 0 0 1 4 14
Kaylon Williams 37 3-6 0-1 2-2 0 2 8 0 0 1 1 8
Ryan Allen 26 3-4 0-1 3-7 1 3 0 0 0 4 2 9
Paris Gulley 40 7-12 5-7 0-0 2 6 2 0 0 3 3 19
Ryan Haggerty 13 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 0 1 0 0 3 0
Kyle Kelm 17 1-3 0-0 0-1 2 3 0 0 0 0 1 2
Shaquille Boga 3 0-1 0-1 0-0 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 0
Mitch Roelke 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Evan Richard 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Quinton Gustavson 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Christian Wolf 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
TOTALS 26-44 11-20 15-22 5 23 16 3 1 10 16 78
59.1% 55.0% 68.2%
Loyola Ramblers
Walt Gibler 19 3-5 0-0 2-3 3 4 1 1 0 1 3 8
Ben Averkamp 31 6-11 1-3 3-4 0 1 4 0 0 1 5 16
John Benkoske 2 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
Joe Crisman 29 3-5 0-0 3-5 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 9
London Dokubo 9 1-1 1-1 0-0
0 1 1 0 0 1 0 3
Jordan Hicks 32 6-6 0-0 1-2 1 5 1 0 0 1 4 13
Denzel Brito 32 4-12 2-5 0-0 0 2 1 0 0 4 0 10
Jonathon Gac 15 1-4 0-0 0-2 3 5 1 0 0 0 2 2
Chim Kadima 17 2-4 2-3 2-2 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 8
Christian Thomas 13 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 4 1 0 0 2 5 0
Adam Cooper 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
TOTALS 26-48 6-12 11-18 7 23 11 1 0 11 20 69
54.2% 50.0% 61.1%
Technicals: 2 LOYOLACHI ( – Team 1 ) WISCMILW ( T Meier 1 )
Officials: Kevin Mathis, Paul Szelc, Charles Russell
Attendance: 2,919

The importance of sustaining momentum

Thursday night, while everyone was focused on potential seedings in the Horizon League Tournament and the victory of the night against UIC, Rob Jeter and the Milwaukee Panthers turned their attention to something else – Loyola.

The Ramblers and their 1-16 Horizon League record represent the final regular season game for Jeter’s Panthers as they head into the Horizon League Tournament intent on winning four games and the tournament championship.

The same things could be said about Loyola that were said about UIC. This won’t be an easy game. Nothing is guaranteed. A loss is not out of the question.

But you knew all that. What is at stake this afternoon is not so much a final victory, a seed or the chance to pick an opponent for Tuesday night, but instead it is momentum.

You don’t need to be a physics major to understand how important that is heading into the conference tournament.

Despite going on a major skid from the middle of January to the middle of February, the Milwaukee Panthers have the opportunity to head into Tuesday riding a four-game winning streak, something that didn’t seem possible heading into the Cleveland State game early last week.

The truth is, the full week from last week Wednesday to Thursday that featured only one game, a simple non-conference game that allowed the Panthers to take time off and heal some wounds.

They were tested Thursday night at UIC. They’ll be tested today against Loyola. But following through and beating the Ramblers will put Milwaukee on a four-game roll that will certainly bring an air of confidence into the Klotsche Center for the first home game on-campus in tournament history.

Today’s game will mark the second meeting between the teams this season. The Panthers won a blowout in Milwaukee, their first victory of the conference season and one in a four-game winning streak. It will be the sixth time that Milwaukee has seen Ben Averkamp, cousin of Jason and the best player on the Ramblers team.

Averkamp was minimized at the Cell, scoring 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting. Those aren’t bad numbers, but coupled with two rebounds and three turnovers, it was not a banner night for the junior Pre-Med student.

Panther fans will also know Germantown’s Averkamp from his recruitment by Milwaukee, spurning the hometown Black and Gold for Loyola and its medical school – Ben has aspirations of being a doctor. Nevermind that over half of UWM Pre-Med students are admitted to medical school after graduation, a high percentage for school that doesn’t have a medical school of its own.

For me, the pull of today’s game with Loyola is not just about the game but also about a chance to see Loyola’s brand new basketball facilities, the renovated and rechristened Gentile Arena as well as the Norville Center, the practice, training and office facility for the entire program.

The arena, which used to be a glorified high school gym, has been reshaped into a bi-level seating bowl that looks like a true basketball arena.

I can’t wait to take as many pictures as possible and share them on the forum.

For anyone interested in scenarios, Bill Potter of the Horizon League deserves your respect and admiration for laying it all out yesterday. It’s a bit dated as Butler lost to Valpo, but there are still seven possible scenarios in play.

If they win:

- Clinch the No. 3 seed with a CSU loss and Detroit win.
- Clinch the No. 4 seed with a CSU win and Detroit win.
- Clinch the No. 5 seed with a CSU win and YSU win.

If they lose:

- Clinch the No. 5 seed with a YSU win.
- Clinch the No. 5 seed with a YSU win and Green Bay win.
- Clinch the No. 6 seed with a Detroit win.
- Clinch the No. 6 seed with a Detroit win and Green Bay win.

Bombs away

Kaylon Williams moved within one assist of Marc Mitchell’s single season assists record, but it was his 19 points and 4-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc that gave the Milwaukee Panthers a victory Thursday night over the UIC Flames, 72-61.

Williams had a double-double on the night, dishing out ten assists to push his career total to 356 and bring him within one of Marc Mitchell’s single-season record. There was a record that did get equalized on Thursday night; with three blocks, Ryan Allen tied Dylan Page and Eugene Sims with 37 blocks, the single-season record for Milwaukee.

Following Williams was Tony Meier, who scored 17 points and edged within 15 of the 1,000-point plateau for his career. Meier, like Williams, was dominant behind the arc, hitting five of seven attempts from three-point land.

Milwaukee began the game trading blows with UIC outside the arc before pulling away when the Flames couldn’t keep up. The Panthers held double-digit leads at several points in the first half, but the Flames cut the lead to nothing and actually led at the break, 32-29.

Halftime was just what the doctor ordered, as Milwaukee turned that three-point deficit into a four-point advantage at 44-40 with 12 minutes left in the game. Milwaukee took the lead for good at the 11:38 mark in the second half and never looked back. The Flames made it interesting by bringing it within five points and :45 seconds remaining, but the Panthers calmly hit their free throws and kept the game out of reach.

Milwaukee had trouble guarding Darrin Williams’ pudginess inside and Hayden Humes’ surprisingly crisp ball control, but it was Marc Brown’s outside shot that really kept the game close. By the time Brown hit his fourth three-pointer, coach Rob Jeter switched Ryan Allen onto Brown, only to see him drain a fifth three-pointer on just his sixth attempt.

It was the Panthers, however, that ruled the arc. Brown’s play was impressive, but Milwaukee had three legit bombers from long range – Kaylon Williams (4-7), Paris Gulley (3-5) and Tony Meier (5-7) all shot better than 50% from three-point land.

Milwaukee moved to 18-12 on the season and 10-7 in Horizon League play. The Panthers can still tie for second place with a victory over Loyola on Saturday coupled with losses by Butler and Cleveland State, but the Panthers will not get the two-seed regardless due to Youngstown State or Detroit being guaranteed to finish tied with the Black and Gold (Detroit would win tiebreaker due to a sweep of Butler and YSU swept Milwaukee).

PantherU sends a big thanks to Kevin Hazaert for putting together these scenarios for the Panthers on the weekend:

If Milwaukee loses to Loyola … plus:

Detroit beats Youngstown State: Milwaukee would be the 6 seed (UWM & YSU would be 10-8, with YSU winning head-to-head tiebreaker)

Youngstown State beats Detroit: Milwaukee would be the 5 seed (UWM & Detroit would be 10-8. Teams split season series, but UWM wins tiebreaker with 1-1 record vs. Valpo as Detroit was 0-2 vs. Valpo.)

If Milwaukee beats Loyola (and Cleveland State and Butler both win) … plus:

Youngstown State beats Detroit: Milwaukee would be the 5 seed (UWM & YSU would be 11-7, with YSU winning head-to-head tiebreaker)

Detroit beats Youngstown State: Milwaukee would be the 4 seed (UWM & Detroit would be 11-7. Teams split season series, but UWM wins tiebreaker with 1-1 record vs. Valpo as Detroit was 0-2 vs. Valpo.)

If Milwaukee beats Loyola (and Cleveland State and Butler both lose) … plus:

Youngstown State beats Detroit: Milwaukee would be 5 seed. (CSU, Butler, YSU and UWM would all finish at 11-7. Butler is 4-2 vs. group, CSU & YSU are both 3-3 vs. group, UWM is 2-4 vs. group.)

Detroit beats Youngstown State: Milwaukee would be 3 seed. (CSU, Butler, Detroit and UWM would all finish at 11-7. CSU is 4-2 vs. group, UWM & Detroit are both 3-3 vs. group, Butler is 2-4 vs. group. UWM wins tiebreaker over Detroit with 1-1 vs. Valpo as Detroit was 0-2 vs. Valpo.)

If Milwaukee beats Loyola (and Cleveland State wins, and Butler loses) … plus:

Youngstown State beats Detroit: Milwaukee would be 5 seed. (Butler, YSU and UWM tied at 11-7. Butler is 3-1 vs. group, YSU is 2-2 vs. group, UWM is 1-3 vs. group.)

Detroit beats Youngstown State: Milwaukee would be 4 seed. (Butler, Detroit and UWM tied at 11-7. Detroit is 3-1 vs. group, UWM is 2-2 vs. group, Butler is 1-3 vs. group.)

If Milwaukee beats Loyola (and Butler wins, and Cleveland State loses) … plus:

Youngstown State beats Detroit: Milwaukee would be 5 seed. (CSU, YSU and UWM tied at 11-7. YSU is 3-1 vs. group, CSU is 2-2 vs. group, UWM is 1-3 vs. group.)

Detroit beats Youngstown State: Milwaukee would be 4 seed. (CSU, Detroit and UWM tied at 11-7. CSU is 3-1 vs. group, UWM is 2-2 vs. group, Detroit is 1-3 vs. group.)

Dangerous prey

Take one look at UIC’s record and tell me they scare you. Of course not. A team that is 3-13 in the Horizon League does not strike fear much into anyone.

Take a closer look, and you won’t be so certain. The Milwaukee Panthers last played UIC way back on December 3rd, an overtime victory for the Black and Gold. The Panthers held a 51-40 lead with 4:45 remaining in regulation, but the Flames spread like wildfire and went on a 19-8 run to tie the game and send it to overtime.

And Milwaukee hasn’t been the only team to escape the Flames. Dayton pulled away at the end. Green Bay almost suffered a terrible fate as well. UIC had a legitimate shot at beating Butler at home before letting it slip through their fingers, then had the same thing happen on Tuesday at Hinkle Fieldhouse.

Valpo, Detroit and Wright State have also had to work some magic to escape UIC with a victory. The Titans weren’t so lucky at the Pavilion in Chicago, dropping a 63-59 decision.

So how does UIC keep so many games so close, then lose them all? Pretty much the same way Youngstown State did it last year – the Flames are all about all-out effort. Second chance points, offensive rebounds, anything to extend the possession, the Flames will do it. They fight hard for everything they get, especially on the glass.

Gary Talton is a bomber. The starting guard is the kind of player that doesn’t take a ton of threes and doesn’t shoot for a high percentage, but when he’s hitting them you know it – much like Kaylon Williams. Talton is the clutch guard that UIC has been missing for years, a guy who distributes the ball and gets the entire team to play better with an infectious streak of effort.

But the Flames have a mountain of problems, which has attributed to their 3-13 conference record. They don’t pass the ball around, outside of Talton – the Flames are ninth in the conference in assists. They don’t take care of the ball, leading the league in turnovers per game. Both of those statistics are attributable to the fact that Flames players often dribble around too much to really get themselves set.

The Flames are 3-4 at home in the Horizon League and could conceivably finish with a 5-4 record by sweeping the UW schools at home. However unlikely, you know that the Flames will be gunning for the victory tomorrow to guarantee that they don’t fall behind Loyola, who could theoretically still overtake them should they win out and UIC lose out.

Expect UIC to take no prisoners, fight to the final buzzer and possibly win the battle of the boards en route to a tough result. I still expect Milwaukee to win, but it won’t come easy.

Ajami in Transition

Former Milwaukee Panthers guard Jerard Ajami is in his first year after college. Graduating with a degree in Communication, Ajami has moved into the color commentator role on home broadcasts of Panther games opposite Bill Johnson.

PantherU sat down with Jerry recently to talk Panther basketball, his transition to radio and his future with the Black and Gold.

Jimmy Lemke: Finishing up your playing career with a regular season championship, you immediately took over duties as color commentator at home games along with Bill Johnson on 1130 WISN. What’s the biggest difference between seeing games as a player and seeing them as a commentator?

Jerard Ajami: After our great season and me grabbing my degree in communications I still wanted to be a part of UWM and the basketball program. The closest thing I could see myself doing right away was color commentary, because I feel like I know the game, I know the X’s and O’s and I think it helps that I like to goof around a lot. You put all that together and you get color commentary. The biggest difference though is you see everything way more clearly, you see a pass that’s open, you see a dumb mistake and also you see A LOT of tendencies that you may not notice while you’re running up and down the court.

JL: It’s pretty cool that you got to step into that role right after your eligibility finished. Is this something you want to make your career?

JA: Down the road, I think I really got a good chance at making it a career with either radio or television (because my looks are off the charts). But seeing basketball from the sideline instead of in-game makes me kind of want to get into the coaching side of things so I can actually tell the players what’s up and what they’re doing wrong so they don’t make the same mistake twice. But knowing the game and being confident in what you know is really what color commentary comes down too.

JL: What has been the most challenging part of being a color commentator?

JA: The most challenging part of being a color commentator would have to be keeping it PG and also not short-arming your explanations. It’s always better to explain in details so the listeners know what you’re talking about, because they can’t see the game.

JL: Has Bill been helpful for you as you get your feet wet?

JA: Absolutely, First day bill told me to be confident on what I say and from day one, I feel more comfortable. So definitely he has.

JL: How much homework would you say you do on opposing teams before each game?

JA: I was never a homework kind of guy [laughs], but before every game I look over the stats and make sure I get the main guys and then I look over the guys who possibly could be the main guy that game. Maybe because of their past games they have had really good games. But really to me it’s just how the flow of the games goes.

JL: The Panthers have had some difficult times and are on the outside looking in heading into the conference tournament. Apart from the obvious two games as top seed to four games as #3 or lower seed, how is this going to be different for them compared to the team that you played on as a senior?

JA: It’s definitely different for this team because they show flashes of being a #1 Seed and they show flashes of being a #7 Seed. But the good thing about this team and this league is that they can beat everyone in this league top to bottom. They don’t have to worry about NBA type caliber players like Shelvin Mack, Norris Cole, Matt Howard, Brandon Wood. Going into the tournament it’s about which team has the most momentum. I think them beating Fairfield was HUGE for the team because their momentum carries over to the Chicago trip and if they can get those 2 it’s that much better. Right now this league is up for grabs to get to the championship game, and I like Milwaukee getting another shot in the championship game.

JL: Ten years from now, if you are still involved with the program, what would you want to be doing?

JA: That’s a hard question. Whatever it is, I’d want to be a part of athletics department. The athletics department staff are passionate people that at the end of the day want to see Milwaukee athletics win, So yeah somewhere in there.


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