Panthers drop conference opener to Raiders

For the third time this season and second straight game at home, the Milwaukee Panthers found themselves on the losing end of a game that was decided in overtime. A JayQuan McCloud three-pointer in the final seconds rimmed in and out, resulting in a 84-82 defeat against Wright State in the teams’ Horizon League opener at UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena Saturday afternoon.

The loss stung a little more than the previous overtime defeats because for the majority of the second half, Milwaukee was trailing by double digits. Wright State saw their lead reach as many as 17 with only 10:56 remaining. It was at that point when the Panthers started chipping away at the deficit. Milwaukee used a 16-0 run to pull within a point with five minutes remaining. After Matt Tiby scored on a putback, the Panthers now found themselves in front 69-68.

After a lay-up by Joe Thomasson, Wright State took a 74-71 lead, but on the next possession McCloud hit a three-pointer from the top of the key to tie things up once again. Biggie Minnis of Wright State split a pair of free throws to give the Raiders a one-point lead with 44.7 seconds left leaving Milwaukee with the opportunity to win it. Tiby got followed on the next possession but could only make one of his free throws. Wright State had a few chances at the end of regulation to win it, but couldn’t convert sending the game into overtime.

In the overtime period Milwaukee trailed by as many as five, but a three-pointer from Austin Arians followed by a lay-up from McCloud tied things up at 85. Wright States’ Mark Alstork’s lay-up with 1 minute and 15 seconds left gave the Raiders a two-point lead and eventually the win.

“I’m proud of the guys and how hard they fought to get back into this game and give us a chance to win,” Milwaukee head coach Rob Jeter said. “We’ve come up on the short end of these overtime games. Almost all of our loses have been by no more than a couple points, and we’ve got to figure out a way to win those.”

A key aspect to the game was Milwaukee’s inability to convert at the free throw line. The Panthers finished the day shooting 71.4 percent from the line (25-of-35).

“Last time I checked we were one of the best free-throw shooting teams in the league, and we just couldn’t connect on those,” said Jeter. “Those are big. Those are costly when you lose an overtime game.”

Tiby finished the game with 23 points while also grabbing nine rebounds. Akeem Springs chipped in a quality game as well finishing with 19 points. Milwaukee has a quick turnaround as they host Northern Kentucky on Monday.

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