WISCONSIN-MILWAUKEE (13-7, 6-2 Horizon) AT CLEVELAND STATE (16-4, 6-2 Horizon)
Time: 7:05 p.m.
Location: Wolstein Center
Milwaukee 102 (No. 2 Horizon)
Cleveland State 68 (No. 1 Horizon)
Line: Cleveland St -6 (o/u 110)
Milwaukee Players to Watch: G Kaylon Williams, 6-3 Sr. (11.3 ppg); F James Haarsma, 6-7 Jr. (10.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 52.2% FG); G Ryan Allen, 6-3 Sr. (9.2 ppg, 6 rpg, 51.3% FG). Williams, who had 18 points, eight rebounds and five assists in Friday’s 68-66 heartbreaking loss at Youngstown State, is one of the nation’s most complete players. He’s 10th in the nation at 6.6 assists per game and has a 2.21 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Cleveland State Players to Watch: G D’Aundray Brown, 6-4 Sr. (11.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 2.6 spg); G Jeremy Montgomery, 6-2 Sr. (10.6 ppg, 3.2 apg, 36.1% 3s); F Tim Kamczyc, 6-7 Jr. (9.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 57.8% FG). Brown had a great all-around performance in Friday’s 78-68 win over Green Bay with nine points, seven assists, five rebounds, two steals and two blocks. He ranks seventh in the nation at 2.63 steals per contest.
Storylines: The Vikings’ win over Green Bay coupled with Milwaukee’s loss to Youngstown State on Friday put them and Valparaiso in a deadlock atop the Horizon League at 6-2. Cleveland State has won four of its last five, including a 76-69 win over defending Horizon League champion Butler on Jan. 13. Friday’s loss, in which they had two shots in the final 30 seconds to win or tie the game, ended the Panthers’ 3-game winning streak.
Keys: These are the two most balanced teams in the Horizon. Milwaukee has four players who average in double figures and eight who average at least 7.1 per game. The Vikings have four who averaging at least 9.1 points and nine who score more than two per game. Expect a low scoring game between two of the league’s best defensive teams. Milwaukee holds opponents to 39.5 percent from the field. It’s perimeter defense is outstanding. Opponents shoot a mere 25 percent from the 3-point line. Cleveland State, which thrives on full-court pressure defense, isn’t much worse. Opponents shoot just 43 percent from the floor and 30.5 from 3. Brown vs. Williams should be a great 1-on-1 matchup to watch. Each is his team’s leading scorer and the offenses go through the two seniors. One key to watch is turnovers. Both teams have been turnover prone at times and both teams force a lot of errors. Milwaukee averages 13.1 turnovers and forces 13.1. Cleveland State turns it over 14.2 times per game and forces a whopping 17.9. The Vikings turned it over 21 times in the win over Green Bay. The Panthers should have a slight advantage on the boards with Williams, Haarsma and Tony Meier off the bench. Milwaukee is 9-1 at home with its only loss coming against then-No. 15 Wisconsin, 60-54 on Dec. 13. The Vikings have been tremendous on the road. They are 8-2 in true road games, including victories over Vanderbilt, Kent State, Robert Morris and Butler.
The Bottom Line: Cleveland State is probably a slightly better team and is capable of pulling off the win, but in a college basketball game between teams this even, it’s always wise to go with the home team.
The Pick: Milwaukee 58, Cleveland State 54