CLEVELAND, March 19 -- In the final seconds, Bruce Pearl crouched on the sideline, a grin slowly emerging. Fans chanted his name. Players stood on their chairs and faced the crowd. Even the cheerleaders cried.
Unlike Thursday, when Wisconsin-Milwaukee followed its first NCAA tournament victory with a muted celebration, everyone associated with the program enjoyed the moment Saturday.
The 12th-seeded Panthers upset fourth-seeded Boston College, 83-75, at Wolstein Center to advance to play top-seeded Illinois in the round of 16 Thursday at Allstate Arena outside Chicago.
"This," Pearl said, "will go down in some history."
It was a signature victory for UWM, which became a Division I program in 1990, and for Pearl, who defeated his alma mater Saturday.
The Panthers (26-5) won as they had all season in the Horizon League: with their pressure defense, which caused 22 turnovers, and three-point shooting (they made 11).
Boston College relied on forwards Craig Smith (25 points) and Jared Dudley, who scored 18 of his 22 points from the free throw line. But the Eagles were outhustled throughout.
In a game featuring physical teams -- one a mid-major program, the other from the Big East -- the Panthers were quicker to virtually every loose ball.
"If floor burns are what we got," forward Adrian Tigert said, "those are our battle wounds."
BC's players tried to intimidate the Panthers early, both with their words and their play. The Eagles (25-5) jumped to an 11-0 start after three minutes. Every starter scored as the Eagles pounded the ball into the post to four players during the opening run.
The Eagles also didn't have to inbound the ball in the opening three minutes against the Panthers' full-court press. When UWM finally scored, the press proved effective, even against a Boston College team with a handful of capable ball-handlers.
Guard Louis Hinnant, an Oxon Hill native, had committed one turnover every 15.4 minutes this season. He had three in the first half Saturday and five in the game.
In all, Boston College, which led the Big East in assist-to-turnover ratio, committed 11 turnovers in the first 11 minutes. The Eagles clearly were frustrated, often pointing at one another or briefly exchanging words after failing to inbound the ball successfully.
"It helped get that 11-point deficit down pretty quickly," Pearl said of the press. "Clearly, it was a weapon that could swing the game one way or another."
UWM quickly turned the game into a 94-foot frenetic scramble, which was to the Panthers' liking. A 19-3 run helped them mount a seven-point advantage in the first half despite the Eagles shooting 60 percent.
UWM stole the ball on back-to-back possessions, which led to two layups.
Boston College center Nate Doornekamp next had to burn a timeout because he couldn't inbound the ball. Upset, he pointed at a few of his teammates walking to the huddle.
Offensively, the Panthers missed their first three three-point attempts but made seven of their final nine to close the half. Boston College was vulnerable against the three-pointer earlier this month, when the Eagles allowed a combined 18 three-pointers in games against Rutgers and West Virginia.
Ed McCants, the Horizon League player of the year, scored his team's first eight points of the second half on two three-pointers and a layup to increase the lead to seven. He finished with 18 points.
Later in the second half, UWM's Chris Hill drove baseline, then fired a pass out to Joah Tucker, who swished a three-pointer to keep the lead at seven with 8:30 left.
Tucker finished with 23 points and six assists. For Pearl, who was an administrative assistant on Tom Davis's Boston College coaching staff in the early 1980s, the victory was particularly meaningful.
"I was fine until I heard the fight song; that had me conflicted," Pearl said. "For about a second."