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Rob-bed: Wisconsin basketball stunned at home by Milwaukee

For the second time this season, the Badgers dropped a home game to an unranked non-conference opponent, falling 68-67 to the Milwaukee Panthers.

MADISON --€” In shocking fashion, the pupil defeated the teacher.

On Wednesday night, familiar faces and close friends Rob Jeter and Bo Ryan squared off for the 11th time as the Milwaukee Panthers took on the Wisconsin Badgers at the Kohl Center.

Jeter, who learned the game from Ryan for four years as a player at UW-Platteville and 10 more as an assistant across three different stops in the state, had never beaten the Badgers in 10 tries.

As the adage goes, eleventh time's the charm.

The Badgers blew an 11-point lead in the second half, losing 68-67 to a Panthers team that took after its coach with tenacious, aggressive play.

"I've said on many occasions and interviews that the best way you can repay a mentor, a father figure, uncle, brother, friend like Bo is to try to put a team on the floor that plays well, plays the way he taught me to play the game," Panthers head coach Rob Jeter said.

"And tonight, we played the game how he taught me to play it."

It was only the second victory for Milwaukee over the Badgers in 33 all-time meetings and the first in 23 games, dating back to a 77-72 Panthers win at the UW Field House in 1992.

"I don't know where to begin," a speechless Jeter said after the game.

It's easy to know where to begin with where the Badgers went wrong.

Wisconsin shot 29.2 percent in the second half, enduring a field goal drought of eight minutes and 49 seconds as the Panthers repeatedly clawed their way back into the game.

"If you're not making shots, then it's not going to happen," Ryan said.

The loss soured a career night from forward Nigel Hayes, who finished with 32 points and 17 of Wisconsin's 27 in the second half.

But the junior missed seven of 19 free throws, including a costly pair down the stretch.

"He could have hit a few more free throws," Ryan said. "Any competitor would take a look at that game and find some things that they could have done better."

Going from the tiny gyms of junior college basketball to playing in front of a sellout crowd at the Kohl Center, guard Jordan Johnson took command of the Panthers to finish with 22 points. The smallest player on the floor, Johnson made his way to the free throw line eight times without a miss.

"He might be 5-9, but tonight he played like he was seven-feet," Jeter said. "He really attacked the rim in the land of giants and really made some plays for us."

Forward Matt Tiby added 15 points and 11 rebounds for Milwaukee.

Forward Ethan Happ finished with 10 points and 15 rebounds to post his fourth double-double of the season and guard Bronson Koenig scored 16 points.

On this night, it was the two points that Koenig didn't score that lingered afterward.

Trailing by four, Koenig buried a three-pointer with 22 seconds remaining to draw the Badgers back within one. After Milwaukee turned the ball over on a travel by forward J.J. Panoske, Koenig had the ball with a chance to walk away the hero.

Instead, the junior pulled up for a jumper that rimmed out at the buzzer and it was the visiting Panthers that were left celebrating.

"A big switched onto me and we were in double bonus, so I probably should have drove and got some contact and got to the line," Koenig said.

Wisconsin built an 11-point halftime lead at 40-29 holding the Panthers to eight made field goals over the game's first 20 minutes.

"You always know with these in-state games that teams will always find a little extra to bring and we didn't match that or exceed that." -Nigel Hayes

Had they continued that play, the Badgers would have rolled to their 23rd consecutive victory over their in-state rival.

The opposite happened.

"We didn't come out with enough sense of urgency and you always know with these in-state games that teams will always find a little extra to bring and we didn't match that or exceed that," Hayes said of his team's start to the second half. "And this is what we get."

Milwaukee scored 10 consecutive points, including the first seven of the second half, to draw within 40-36.

Behind five points from Hayes, the Badgers pulled ahead by 11 once again at the 13:55 mark.

Just like their coach, however, the Panthers had plenty of fight in them.

"Through it all we kept ourselves in range," Jeter said. "I'm not saying we were in a position to win, but we were in range."

That range continued to shrink and shrink in front of a increasingly anxious Wisconsin crowd.

Consecutive layups by guard J.R. Lyles and forward Austin Arians made it a two-point game at 51-49. Two Johnson free throws cut the lead to one at 54-53. When Wisconsin regained a two-possession lead at 60-55, Arians, who had missed his first 10 three-point attempts on the night, buried a triple and Tiby sunk a pair of free throws to tie the game with 3:07 left.

A Johnson layup and jumper gave Milwaukee a 64-62 lead, but Hayes tied the game with a pair of free throws with 1:08 remaining.

Guard Akeem Springs sunk two free throws of his own just four seconds later to put the Panthers up 66-64.

With an opportunity to tie the game with 24 seconds remaining, Hayes missed both free throws. Springs stepped to the line and made both his attempts to put the Panthers up 68-64.

The Koenig triple and Milwaukee turnover gave the Badgers one last chance to eke out a victory, but Koenig's contested jumper with one second remaining rimmed out.

A lack of contributors outside of Hayes left the Badgers ice-cold in the second half.

"He needed some help from his teammates," Ryan said. "But some of the things we did there down the stretch..."

Ryan went silent, leaving to recollection some of the events that transpired.

Sure, there was the shooting dry spell. But the missed free throws, turnovers, stagnant ball movement and the Vitto Brown charge after dribbling three-quarters of the court €”also did the Badgers in on this night.

The Badgers started off hot from the field, hitting 10 of their first 17 field goals to open up with a 23-12 lead.

Hayes led the Badgers with 15 points, Koenig added 11 and Happ nearly posted a double-double with eight points and nine rebounds going into the intermission.

By the end, it was the Panthers that showed more fight.

For the second time in a season still in its first month, as the final buzzer resounded throughout the Kohl Center, the only other noise to be heard came from the bench of the heavy underdogs.

The loss marks Wisconsin's third failed attempt to extend a two-game winning streak.

Brown was among the primary culprits for the Badgers' shooting woes. The junior forward finished with three points and shot 1-for-9 from the field.

"Sometimes a team will leave a guy open and say ‘Okay, well make him have to hit one.' It seems that's the position Vitto is in, and he just unfortunately couldn't get one to go down. But he's not the only one."

Wisconsin entered the season with two losses to unranked non-conference opponents in its last 93 games.

After losing to Western Illinois in the season opener, they have already matched that total in six home games this season.

The pattern continues to be the same for the Badgers: Two steps forward, one step back. Or is it one step forward, two steps back?

Either way, it's another step in the wrong direction for a perplexing Wisconsin team that just one week ago took down No. 14 Syracuse on the road.

Badgers basketball: the greatest mystery television in the Midwest.