I apologize for the delay in posting last week’s second moment of the decade and, by default, pushing back this week’s. I’m going to blame computer issues.
The 2000’s got off to an auspicious start for Milwaukee. In their first full season of the decade/millennium, the Panthers won their first league championship as a Division I program and advanced to their first NCAA Tournament.
Jan. 20, 2001, UWM dropped a heartbreaker at Green Bay, 67-63. This is the previously mentioned “Jessica Wilhite knocked down 10(!) three-pointers” game. The loss dropped the Panthers to 6-9 on the season. After that game, they rattled off a modest four-game winning streak. Then, after a setback at Detroit, they would not lose again until the NCAA Tournament.
The team went on a nine-game winning streak, which included a 72-66 win over Green Bay and culminated with another win over the Phoenix, 77-62, in the MCC Tournament championship game. Wilhite knocked down seven treys in that game on her way to a league tournament record 26 points and Maria Viall set a league record of her own with 15 rebounds.
Milwaukee’s season came to an end at No. 3 Duke, but it was easily the program’s finest season as a Division I program up to that point. The team went 19-11 and posted a 14-2 conference mark. The key was a strong team in every aspect.
Leading the way was three senior captains—Teri Stoltenberg, Nichole Luchsinger, Janelle Jonason. The Panthers also had a three-point specialist in leading scorer Wilhite, who knocked down a school and league-record 93 three’s on the year. In the post was a young center, Viall, who would score over 1,800 career points, pull down almost 1,000 rebounds and win win back-to-back league player of the year awards.
The roster also included a pair of junior guards in Holly Tamm and Ali Klaas that provided solid depth and leadership on this team, as well as the 2001-02 squad that won 20 games.
All the pieces were in place for a special season and the Panthers did not disappoint.