Freshman Austin Arians had 19 points and nine rebounds to lead a stellar bench effort as the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee claimed a 69-57 win over Cleveland State Thursday night at the Klotsche Center.
Ryan Haggerty added 12 points off the bench and the Panthers (5-13, 1-3 Horizon) led by as many as 20 points in the second half in capturing their first Horizon League win of the season. The duo helped Milwaukee's bench outscore Cleveland State's, 31-8.
The starters also contributed. Paris Gulley had 17 points for Milwaukee whileJordan Aaron tied his collegiate-high with 11 assists. Freshman J.J. Panoskepitched in with eight points, three rebounds and three blocks in his second start of the year.
Bryn Forbes had 16 points to lead Cleveland State (10-9. 2-3), which was held to just 33.8 percent shooting from the field.
Arians was exactly the spark the Panthers were looking for. He knocked home three 3-pointers in the first half to help Milwaukee build a lead and then threw home a dunk that pushed the Panther lead to 62-42 with just over five minutes remaining.
Milwaukee's offense ran as smoothly as it had in a while, with UWM knocking down 12 three-pointers and posting a season-high 19 assists.
"I think the biggest stat is 19 assists. We haven't had that many assists combined in the first three league games," Milwaukee head coach Rob Jeter said. "That means we're sharing the ball and making the extra pass."
UWM also stepped up its defensive effort, with Cleveland State becoming just the fifth team Milwaukee has held under 40 percent shooting this season.
"It's amazing how communication can fix so many minor things going on on the court," Haggerty said. "We had some of our best defensive rotations of the whole year, and box outs and making extra passes, just from guys calling for the ball and talking through things on the court. That's something we have to keep doing - helping ourselves instead of shooting ourselves in the foot."
The Panthers overcame a slow start to build a seven-point halftime lead. Cleveland State scored seven of the first eight points of the game and still led 12-7 on a three-pointer by Forbes with 12:13 remaining. But Milwaukee surged from there, taking a 16-14 lead on a three by Arians before eventually pushing the edge to 21-14 on a three-point play by Haggerty with 8:53 remaining. Milwaukee eventually led 26-18 and carried a 28-21 lead into the halftime locker room.
UWM wasn't done, though, opening the second half on an 11-2 run to build a 39-23 advantage. Cleveland State answered with a 12-2 burst to close within 41-35, but Milwaukee countered and then pulled away. A follow-up dunk by Haggerty made it 52-38 and a three by Panoske on Aaron's 10th assist of the night pushed the edge to 60-42. UWM never looked back after that.
UWM wraps up its three-game homestand Saturday night when Youngstown State visits the Klotsche Center. The game tips off at 7 p.m.