AUKESHA - Energy.
That seemingly simple ingredient can often become the difference between winning and losing on the court as a team attempts to fight through the doldrums of a long, tedious season.
The UWM-Waukesha men's basketball team learned that valuable lesson firsthand as it lost to fierce rival UWGB-Sheboygan 79-66 in a Wisconsin Collegiate Conference East showdown at the UWM-Waukesha Field House on Wednesday, Dec. 12th.
It was the first home-court loss of the season for UWM-Waukesha, which lost its second consecutive game to drop to 4-2 in the highly contested conference standings and 5-5 overall.
The frustrating loss took on added significance as it was the Cougars' first WCC East regular-season loss since Dec. 13, 2017 (an emotional 78-76 loss to UWM-Washington).
UWM-Waukesha trailed 41-31 at halftime but responded with what appeared to be a resilient, momentum-shifting 8-0 run over the course of the opening three minutes to trim the deficit to 41-39 - capped on a basket by freshman wing Tyler Torosian from New Berlin West off an assist from freshman guard Dion Morbley from Milwaukee Vincent with 17:11 remaining.
It was short lived as UWGB-Sheboygan took control of the game with what proved to be a decisive 22-9 run over a critical nine-minute stretch.
Freshman guard Jake Antczak from Mukwonago contributed a team-high 15 points and sophomore wing Jayden Hardy followed with 13 points for UWM-Waukesha, which captured the WCC state championship in 2016-17 and entered the contest with hopes of avenging last year's stinging home-court loss to the Wombats in the WCC quarterfinals.
Sophomore post player Kurt Meyle from St. John's Northwestern Military Academy had 10 points with Torosian and Morbley each adding eight points.
UWM-Waukesha sixth-year head coach Adam Ligocki was disappointed with his team's lack of energy and inability to play up to its potential in a key early-season, big-game situation.
"The only thing we can learn from this experience is that we need to play hard from beginning to end," said Ligocki, noting Sheboygan's 41 first-half points as being the most given up by his squad in a WCC East game this season. "It took us almost 34 minutes before we finally started to compete with the energy and intensity needed to be successful in this conference. Unfortunately, we were outworked in the first half, dug ourselves a big hole and struggled to recover the rest of the way.
"When we fell behind, it created a sense of urgency on every possession and we just couldn't finish on enough big shots to complete the comeback. Looking back on it, we have to aggressively execute on both ends and that just didn't happen. Tonight, our weaknesses came to the forefront and were exposed against a very good team. Hopefully, this will serve as a good wake-up call and show the importance of playing together the entire way."
Six-foot-7 sophomore forward Dylan Martens scored 20 points before suffering a game-ending leg injury in the second half to lead UWGB-Sheboygan, which improved to 5-2 in conference and 7-5 overall.
COUGAR FAST FACTS
What: The UWM-Waukesha men's basketball team lost to UWGB-Sheboygan 79-66 in a Wisconsin Collegiate Conference East game at the UWM-Waukesha Field House on Wednesday night.
Current Records: 4-2 in WCC East and 5-5 overall
Scoring Leaders: Jake Antczak (15 points), Jayden Hardy (13 points), Kurt Meyle (10 points), Dion Morbley (8 points), Tyler Torosian (8 points)
Notable: The Cougars trailed 41-39 with 17:11 remaining but yielded what proved to be a decisive 22-9 run over a critical nine-minute stretch.