8.9 seconds: Milwaukee's Justin Thomas hits game-winning buzzer-beater to beat UC Davis, 87-85

Milwaukee defeated UC Davis in a thriller, will face Boston U tomorrow at 3pm CST.

Milwaukee (3-3, 0-0) played quite the thriller tonight at the on-campus Klotsche Center against UC Davis of the Big West conference.

Things got off to a fast start- which I think is not a trend but a new style of play altogether, some may not like the faster pace but I'm all for it- because it looks like it could win a lot of games and we haven't played like this since 2005. And we haven't played "this" (Lundy's style) ever.

UC Davis' TY Johnson (32pts, 6reb, 8stl) quickly asserted himself as the main weapon in the UC Davis Aggies offense. With Johnson and Ade Adebayo pressing the Aggies' advantage nearly each time Milwaukee turned it over, a 10-0 Aggie run put the Panthers in the hole just 6 minutes into the first half. 

Milwaukee's constant pressure defense forced 10+ Aggie turnovers in the first half and 19 overall (to our 20 unfortunately). BJ Freeman, Jalen Johnson, Ahmad Rand, Kentrell Pullian and Justin Thomas had excellent man pressure and missed shot follows and all have the the cliché "nose for the ball". But of all of them- Kentrell Pullian seems to be the "everywhere" man and his contributions on the court go beyond the stats.

We've got nothing but winners on this team.

This was a big win, but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves (like me); 2 more big games in less than 48 hours

The second half. Whew, Milwaukee extended their lead and then some, leading by as many as 10 before ceding the lead in the final seconds.

"Looking as good to start a second half, as we have seen all season long" -Scott Wardle, MKE play-by-play announcer

Milwaukee looked especially effective in the way they continued to perfect the art of the pressure defense. But this did lead to some damaging fouls-to-free-points. And we went cold for a stretch in the midst of the closing minutes of the game.

Bit by bit, the Aggies chipped into the Milwaukee lead until...

Elijah Pepper nailed a desperation three from way outside the 3pt line, and was fouled in the process. He converted the free throw for a 4pt play which had the Aggies take the lead, 85-84. Then with all of 8.9 seconds left, the unthinkable happened.

Jamison inbounded to Browning who passed to Thomas then to BJ Freeman. Freeman drove to the goal but was cut off by multiple Aggie defenders and so his shot caromed off the backboard and magic happened just when we needed it most: an Aggie, (in an attempt to swat the ball out to a teammate apparently?), tossed the ball directly into the hands of a Panther! 😲 Which Panther was that?

Enter Justin Thomas of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  

TL; DR; Justin Thomas played fearless, last second shot hero by nailing a three pointer, and Milwaukee salvaged a hard-fought, well-earned victory 87-85 over the UC Davis Aggies in the Panthers' first game of the Cream City Classic.

Catch Milwaukee vs. Boston University at 3pm CST, tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon

Thomas stood tall and delivered the most memorable game-winning shot in Milwaukee Panther Basketball history since.. Since when? Kaylon Williams against Green Bay in 2010 or Deion James against UIC in 2009- both back when Panther Arena was called US Cellular Arena or "the Cell"?

Or what about the Clay Tucker Butler Championship Game buzzer beater at Hinkle Fieldhouse in 2003 which preceded Milwaukee's first NCAA Tourney selection? (the Hinkle HLT Championship game-winner was certainly the most consequential of all our beautiful game winner's). Ricky Franklin, Brock Stull, DeAndre Gholston and Te'Jon Lucas all had game winners as well. Whatever its place in overall Panther Basketball history Thomas' timely shot was just what this team needs.

Said Justin Thomas in an interview back in high school with the Fayetteville Observer when asked about the "competition always fierce and [how] he plans on remaining among the best players in the state":

“I work hard and I’m a gym rat,” Thomas said. “I stay in the gym 24/7 and I love it. I love the game of basketball.”

Here is the Justin Thomas UC Davis game-winner sequence from today's victory: 

What a game.

There were 5 Panthers who scored in double figures tonight: Freeman (14), Johnson (12), Pullian (20), Jamison (13) and Browning (12). We shot well tonight everywhere (except the free throw line) but we continued to rack up more turnovers than assists.

There are still questions about the PG position, and tonight we had some self-inflicted turnovers that, every time they crop up, complicate everything we try to do as an offense. If one player is out of place, the whole machine can suffer.

We played good in this victory- mostly- no doubt; but we had 20 turnovers. Show a team, with a pass-first/court-vision PG that has back-to-back 20+ turnover games. There aren't m/any; we have to clean up our offense and stop giving the ball away without even getting up an attempt.

This win was definitely a huge confidence booster. But good teams always stay humble and hungry. This is but 1 of 3 games this weekend and into Monday afternoon.

Up next is Boston University tomorrow at 3pm. Let's go win this next one 🏆

go panthers
stack good days.