For the next entry in our look back at the decade of the 2000’s in UWM men’s basketball, I thought I would look back at buzzer-beaters, or at least those late or basically last-second shots that made a difference for the Panthers.
In a quick look back to jog my memory in case one had slipped my mind, I found a total of 15 times where you would say a late/late-second shot won or tied the game for the Panthers. I did go ahead and rank my favorites and most memorable ones in order, for whatever that is worth. After all, on this list, the top spot is the easiest one of all. And, at the time, every buzzer-beater seems like the best one.
Ricky’s shot Friday kind of triggered this list, and I went ahead and dropped it in at #6 on this list. So here we go, starting with some honorable mentions.
UIC - Senior Night in 2002-03 – Clay Tucker hits a game-winner with 24 seconds left. A huge shot by Tucker, to be sure, and it was very memorable night at the Klotsche Center. But, there was probably a little too much time still left to put this shot in the top 10. It did cap quite a comeback that night for the Panthers, though.
At Valpo – Ricky Franklin in 2007-08 – Ricky hit a shot with 39 seconds left that helped the Panthers pull out an amazing win without Paige Paulsen on the floor. Again, too much time left to put this in the top 10, but one of many big shots by Ricky.
At Detroit - Avery Smith forces overtime with 0.2 left – Avo nearly helped UWM pull out a road win at Calihan, but the Panthers couldn’t win it in OT after he forced the extra session.
Detroit - Ryan Thornton in 2006-07 – The ole Chillicothe Chucker had his Panther highlight on this night, as his three from the corner forced overtime before UWM won it in the extra time.
At Loyola - James Wright in 2000-01 – Wright scored on a layin with 5.4 seconds left to give UWM a double-overtime victory. The Panthers had blown a late lead and had lost three days earlier at UIC in four overtimes, so this was certainly a big win.
And now on to the top 10 …
#10 - Dan Weisse hits a game-winner with 12 seconds left at Cleveland State in 2000. This turned out to be UWM’s only league road win of the season. It helped get the Panthers into the 4-5 game in the league tournament, where they beat Green Bay.
#9 – Ricky Franklin ties the game at Ball State at the buzzer in 2007-08. The Panthers go on to win in overtime. UWM was way down in this game before launching the comeback, and Rick’s shot was really deep.
#8 - Ricky Franklin ties the game vs. nationally-ranked Butler in 2007-08, though UWM goes on to lose in overtime. I struggled with where to place this one, because it was most definitely a money shot against a big-time opponent. And, it was right at the buzzer and they even had to review it to make sure it was a three. But, UWM actually blew a lead in the game that caused them to need the late three, and then the Panthers couldn’t pull it out in overtime. Still, another big shot from Rick.
#7 - Paige Paulsen wins the game at Green Bay in 2006-07 on a layup with 1.2 seconds left. OK, how high up can you list a layup? Probably not at the top of the list, but I must admit this was a sweet win for the Panthers. No question the 06-07 season was a rough one, and when you only get nine wins you celebrate all of them. But, this was an improbable victory in the final game of the regular season, and Paulsen got himself open and came through when it counted. He has another entry further up this list.
#6 – Ricky Franklin wins the game vs. Valpo with a three this season. OK, it was actually just Friday, so in many ways it feels like the greatest shot ever! Do you really need me to recap it further? I debated about this one, too, but the degree of difficulty alone pushes this up the list. And it was a true game-winner, with a very difficult stretch of games lying ahead.
#5 - Paige Paulsen wins the game vs. Detroit in 2007-08. UWM was actually down 14 points late in this game and it looked like the positive vibe they had going at that point in the season was going to drift away. But, Paulsen knocked down a shot from about 30 feet away that turned a UWM deficit into a UWM win. I think the two things that push this one so far up the list are the fact that the Panthers were way down and the fact that if it misses, UWM loses. It just might have earned the Panthers two more wins, by the way, because Milwaukee rolled Youngstown two days later before claiming that win at Valpo mentioned earlier.
#4 - Ronnie Jones hits a three to tie the game with Virginia Tech in 2001-02, and the Panthers go on to win in overtime. This was actually the Ronnie Jones coming out party, as Jones had kind of been buried on the bench early in the season. I believe there is even a Bruce Pearl quote referencing that in the recap. But, UWM trailed by 21 points in the second half only to rally, with Jones providing a big, big spark long before his tying three-pointer. I would say this was a coming-out for the Panthers that season, but Milwaukee wound up losing at home to Western Michigan the next week. Still, it was an impressive win over a BCS foe and gave you a hint of what might be coming in the years ahead.
#3 - Chris Hill hits a shot in the lane to give UWM a win at Detroit in the 2005-06 season. The shot by Hill capped a big late comeback for the Panthers, who were down 11 late in the game against the Titans. And, UWM had lost its previous game at Green Bay, so the preseason-favorite Panthers were really feeling the heat. But, Hill helped UWM collect itself. After a near-turnover on the final possession, he got into the lane and hit the game-winner. It was probably the biggest regular-season win for the Panthers that season, and a loss by Butler at Detroit at the end of the year was what allowed UWM to claim the outright league crown.
#2 – Deion James hits the game-winning three-pointer vs. UIC in 2008-09. It what might have to rank as the most improbable finish to a Panther game at the U.S. Cellular Arena, UWM overcame a big deficit to win at the buzzer. Remember there were six missed free throws that allowed the Panthers to eventually get the James game-winner, which went through the hoop as time expired. Milwaukee would have lost had the shot not gone in, and it was a totally contested shot. But, it swished through and the celebration began.
#1 – Clay Tucker give UWM its first-ever win at Butler in 2001-02. If a shot makes the SportsCenter Top 10, then it probably has to be at the top of this list. But, this shot belongs there regardless. Milwaukee made a great comeback to be in position for the win, and Tucker hit a dandy of a shot from the top of the key to silence Hinkle Fieldhouse. In many ways, it was like Ricky’s shot Friday – really just a great player making a great play. As I said before, the win at Virginia Tech earlier in the season might not have been UWM’s coming out, but this most certainly was.