The fifth-seeded Panthers (20-13) advance to Tuesday’s championship game against third-seeded Wright State, which beat Cleveland State earlier Saturday. The game will move to the Raiders’ home court of the Nutter Center after the elimination of the top-seeded Phoenix. (Join a watch party.)
Watch: Panther Celebrate victory over UWGB Phoenix. View full size on YouTube
Matt Tiby added 15 points and 10 rebounds while Kyle Kelm pitched-in with 14 points and Austin Arians 12. The Panthers wound up holding Green Bay to just 35 percent shooting from the field, including only 1-of-8 in overtime.
Milwaukee, which has now won at least 20 games in three of the last five seasons, uncharacteristically finished last a year ago and was picked last this season. Now, the Panthers are 40 minutes away from the ultimate turnaround.
Jordan Aaron scored 28 points and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee turned in big play after big play in claiming a 73-66 overtime win over Green Bay Saturday night in the Horizon League Semifinals.
“They are making a believer out of me,” Milwaukee head coach Rob Jeter said. “They just keep battling. We’ve been through some adversity that we’ve overcome. To come into this environment, playing the best team in the league in Green Bay and the way they performed in that second half … when things weren’t quite going our way we just found a way.
“It goes back to what my old coach told me. You just do the ordinary well and the extraordinary can happen.”
Aaron was simply spectacular. He scored the last four points of regulation to force overtime, and then all but put the game away on a baseline jumper with 21.5 seconds remaining in overtime.
“It’s just having an attack mentality from my guys. They keep me going and tell me to keep on attacking,” Aaron said. “I just have to tip my hat to these guys sitting next to me and those guys in the locker room. Without them none of this is possible. Me scoring – that doesn’t win games. Getting stops, getting guys open, playing as a team, that’s what wins games. I just have to tip my hat to my teammates. They just did a tremendous job tonight.”
The Panthers led by as many as 13 points in the first half but Green Bay stormed back, eventually taking a 50-48 lead on an Alec Brown three with 5:33 remaining. The lead eventually grew to 60-56 on a Sykes three-point play with 2:03 left, but Milwaukee had a final answer. Kelm got the Panthers within two on a follow-up dunk and then Aaron tied the game on UWM’s final possession of regulation with a tough driving layin.
In overtime, Aaron gave Milwaukee the lead for good on a single free throw with 2:10 remaining and the Panthers’ defense took over from there. A follow-up basket from Tiby inched the lead to 67-64 with 1:10 left before Aaron’s tough hoop provided extra breathing room. A late Milwaukee turnover opened the door again for the Phoenix, but Sykes missed a challenged shot and then Green Bay turned it over as Milwaukee hung on.
Tuesday’s championship game tips at 6 p.m. CST and airs live on ESPN. The Panthers will now be making their sixth championship game appearance and are seeking their fourth NCAA Tournament berth.