Freshmen J.J. Panoske and Austin Arians scored 15 points apiece but Youngstown State was able to hang on for a 75-72 win over the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Saturday night at the Klotsche Center.
The Panthers (5-14, 1-4 Horizon) did have a chance to tie the game in the final seconds but could not get a shot off before the final horn.
The two teams each led by as many as seven points in the entertaining affair, but Youngstown State (10-8, 2-3) took the lead for good on a D.J. Cole three-pointer with 6:35 remaining and then converted some key hoops in the closing seconds to secure the win.
Kamren Belin scored 21 points to lead the Penguins, who also got 17 points from Damian Eargle and 16 points from Blake Allen.
The stage was set for UWM's final possession after Allen hit a pair of free throws to put YSU up 75-72 with 21 seconds remaining. The Panthers tried to get some early offense but did not break anything free before calling a timeout with eight seconds left. Off that timeout, Milwaukee inbounded to Aaron, who eventually gave the ball up to Panoske before it went to Gulley, whose shot from the wing came after the buzzer.
"With eight seconds left you're not going to fool many people," Milwaukee head coach Rob Jeter said. "You know they are going to switch, and we know we are going to get a contested shot. We just paused a little bit, and the key is to get a shot up."
The two teams played an entertaining first 20 minutes of basketball. Youngstown built an early 8-2 lead and still led 18-12 after a pair of free throws by Belin with 13:00 remaining. Milwaukee struck back, though, scoring 13 in a row to claim a 25-18 advantage. Aaron sparked the run with a pair of threes before Arians added five points to the burst.
A runout dunk by Ryan Haggerty kept the lead at 29-22 with 7:30 left before Youngstown answered, scoring nine of the next 10 points for a 31-30 advantage. The Penguins then broke a 35-all tie with two-straight three points and eventually led 43-36. But Arians answered with a three-point play to bring the Panthers within 43-39 at the break.
UWM opened the second half with a surge, going up 49-47 on three free throws from Panoske. Milwaukee again went up 54-53 on a three-point play by Panoske with 12:42 left and too its final lead of the night at 56-55 as the teams traded hoops.
A Panoske three tied the game at 63-apiece with eight minutes remaining before Cole put the Penguins back ahead. Milwaukee did pull to within 71-70 and 73-72 after that but could never forge another tie or take the lead.
For the second game in a row, Panoske made strong contributions as a starter and Arians reached double figures off the bench. Plus Aaron has 19 assists in his last two contests and Milwaukee is averaging over 70 points per game in the two outings. It's a long way from the numbers following the first three league contests of the year.
"I'm disappointed in the loss but I am pleased in the progress we are making," Jeter said. "We've played a lot of games this year searching for a group that could come in and play with some confidence, and I think we've found that.
"What I am pleased with is the way our guys again shared the basketball - we had more assists than turnovers - and we put ourselves in position to win a game. We just came up short. If we keep fighting like that we're going to have opportunities, but we just didn't take advantage of an opportunity tonight."
The Panthers hit the road for their next contest, playing at UIC Wednesday night. Milwaukee's next home game is Friday - a nationally-televised showdown with Green Bay.