UWM 61, Northern Kentucky 55: Furious finish helps Panthers snap losing streak

·4 min read
UW-Milwaukee guard DeAndre Gholston scored all 14 of his points during the final 8 minutes 25 seconds in leading the Panthers to a win over Northern Kentucky on Saturday.
UW-Milwaukee guard DeAndre Gholston scored all 14 of his points during the final 8 minutes 25 seconds in leading the Panthers to a win over Northern Kentucky on Saturday.

What a way to ring in 2022 for UW-Milwaukee.

Shrugging off a poor opening 30 minutes, the visiting Panthers played a tremendous final 10 in going on to beat Northern Kentucky, 61-55, in a New Year's Day matinee matchup Saturday in Highland Heights, Kentucky.

DeAndre Gholston scored all 14 of his points in the final 8 minutes 25 seconds – nailing 4 three-pointers in the process – as UWM (4-9, 2-2 Horizon League) went on a 21-5 run to rally from a 10-point deficit and pick up a much-needed victory.

Just as important as Gholston's offensive awakening down the stretch was the Panthers' second-half defensive effort, as they limited the Norse (5-8, 1-3) to just 18.8% shooting (6 for 32) and just one make inside the three-point arc.

Box score: UWM 61, Northern Kentucky 55

"Our guys really fought," said coach Pat Baldwin, whose team had dropped 10 straight to Northern Kentucky coming in and four straight games to Division I opponents this season since beating Robert Morris on Dec. 4.

"I knew we hadn't beaten them since I'd been here, so this is great. This team needed it, and that's all I really cared about – getting this win for this team. Our guys did a really great job in the second half, playing with the energy that they needed."

Vin Baker Jr., who tied Gholston for the team lead with 14 points, helped keep UWM afloat in what was otherwise a brutal first half that Northern Kentucky closed on a 13-2 run to take a 37-23 lead at intermission.

The Panthers didn't score from the field in the final 5:32, committed nine turnovers leading to 13 points and surrendered 11 offensive rebounds to the Norse in the first half.

Baker had 10 points – one shy of his career high – to help keep UWM afloat.

"Vin was great. We probably would have been down 20 if he hadn't scored those baskets," Baldwin said. "He found a spot in that zone, hit a three for us as well, and he was big.

"Just his energy and athleticism helps us."

That the Panthers weren't at their sharpest out of the chute might not have been completely unexpected; the team bus broke down in the morning and the traveling party was forced to take a combination of hotel shuttles and Ubers to get to BB&T Arena.

"We had some adversity prior to getting to the arena," Baldwin said with a chuckle. "If it's not one thing, it's another. We fought through that and got here safe."

UWM scored 14 of the first 17 points in the second half to make it a one-possession game only to see Marques Warrick reel off seven straight to up Northern Kentucky's lead back to double digits.

After a Josh Thomas free throw cut it to 47-38, Gholston awakened by hitting 3 threes in four possessions. Then, after a pair of scoring drives by Jordan Lathon, Gholston scored on a layup to give UWM its first lead since the opening basket of the game at 53-52.

Another Gholston three and then a Joey St. Pierre layup made the UWM run 21-5 and essentially closed the game out.

"Dre's going to have a lot of attention on him just because he's our leading scorer," Baldwin said of the junior guard, who missed his first eight shots on the day. "I think the attention was one thing. And then just finding his way in the zone to find openings.

"Then, I talked to him at halftime and told him I thought he was passing up some shots that he should have taken. He just was more aggressive in the second half and just letting it fly without thinking about anything.

"I think that was the biggest thing – he just became more aggressive and stopped passing up on open shots."

Baldwin was heartened by his team's perseverance after the rough first half and then its response midway through the second half.

"It feels good," he said. "You're not going to play well some days, or in a half or whatever. But all I'm really concerned about is if our guys play hard. From our standpoint, we worked our way back into the game by having that discipline and playing smart down the stretch."

UWM limited Northern Kentucky to 29.4% shooting overall – its second-best defensive performance of the season – and hit 14 of 20 free throws compared to Northern Kentucky's 3-for-6 effort.

And, if all goes well, UWM will welcome star freshman Patrick Baldwin Jr. back to the fold this coming week after a three-game absence caused by a bout with COVID-19.

But first things first.

"What matters is, can we get back now on that same bus?" joked Baldwin, referring to his team's scheduled return to Milwaukee later Saturday night.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Furious finish helps UW-Milwaukee Panthers snap losing streak

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