The Milwaukee men’s basketball team is set for the 2023 Barbasol Horizon League Championships and enters the tournament as the No. 2 seed – its highest since the 2010-11 campaign. Following a first-round bye, the team welcomes Wright State to the Klotsche Center Thursday after it advanced with a 77-57 win over Green Bay in the first round. The Panther Basketball Postseason presented by Educators Credit Union is set for a tip off 7 p.m. on ESPN+ with Wayne Larrivee on the call and will have live statistics available. It will also feature the “Educators Credit Union Milwaukee Panther Men’s Basketball Radio Broadcast”, which airs on 101.7 FM The Truth and streaming services. Scott Warras is on the call for his seventh season as the voice of the Panthers and all links are posted on the MKE website.
LOOKING AT THE RAIDERS
Wright State went 22-14 overall last season and returned nine players from the squad that claimed the Horizon League championship and the program’s first-ever NCAA tournament victory (93-82 over Bryant). That helped earn WSU the No. 3 seed in the Horizon League preseason poll, seeing Trey Calvin and Amari Davis named preseason second-team selections. Calvin is the top returning scorer for the Raiders after averaging 14.6 points per game, while Davis averaged 9.0 points per game off the bench at Missouri last year but was a terror at Green Bay prior to that, averaging 17.2 ppg as a sophomore after earning Freshman of the Year accolades the year prior.
This season, Wright State opened 4-1 in league, but struggled throughout the middle of the campaign to finish as the No. 7 seed at 10-10 and is now 18-14 overall. Following a three-game losing streak in mid-February, the Raiders have reeled off back-to-back wins, including a 77-57 decision Tuesday in the opening round against Green Bay. Brandon Noel tallied his 11th double-double of the season with a 20-point, 16-rebound effort to lead the way. Calvin – a First-Team All-Horizon League honoree – leads the way and ranks second in the Horizon League with his 20.1 ppg scoring average. Noel adds 13.0 ppg/8.9 rpg while AJ Braun is close to double figures at 9.7 ppg and shoots 61.5 percent from the floor. As a team, WSU averages 80.2 points and shoots at a 50.0 percent clip overall.
The series is relatively close to even, with Wright State holding a 37-32 all-time lead, as well as a 36-31 edge in MKE’s NCAA Division I era following its two-game sweep this year – the only conference foe to knock off the Panthers twice during the regular season in 2022-23. WSU claimed an overtime victory at UWM Panther Arena and then held off a big comeback effort from Milwaukee to grab a 93-86 win on its home court in late January. The final matchup in 2020-21 marked a memorable postseason comeback for the program, where Milwaukee overcame a 24-point deficit in the final 6:26 of regulation to claim a stunning 94-92 victory in overtime. Prior to that WSU has had the better of it of late, sweeping the season series three of the past four years, as well as knocking Milwaukee out of the postseason in March of 2018 to help reach what was a seven-game win streak in the matchup.
LAST TIME OUT
BJ Freeman scored a career-high 31 points and Milwaukee put together a brilliant second-half performance in claiming an 81-72 victory over Cleveland State Feb. 25 at UWM Panther Arena. The Panthers (20-10, 14-6 Horizon League) outscored the Vikings (19-12, 14-6 Horizon League) by a total of 50-36 in the second half to earn the victory, wrapping up the regular season in second place. Not only was it the team’s best finish in the league standings since the 2010-11 campaign, but comes after the program was picked to finish ninth in the Horizon League Preseason Poll.
Freeman connected on 8-of-17 field-goal attempts and added a 12-of-13 at the free throw line for his second 30-point outburst of the winter, adding eight rebounds and three assists to his season-high (31) point total.