Davenport keeps MTU Men at bay

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mi. The Michigan Tech men's basketball team fell in a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference contest 72-59 at Davenport University Thursday night. The Huskies' defense held the Panthers, one of the top scoring offenses in the GLIAC, to 12 points below their season average, but didn't have quite enough firepower to overtake them.

"We played really hard again tonight, but we struggled with turnovers," Michigan Tech Head Coach Kevin Luke said. "Davenport is the top team in the conference for a reason and we can't afford to make mistakes against a great team like that. We battled with them and I thought the tempo was in our favor in the first half, but we let their offense break out a little more in the second half. Once again, our players never quit and I liked how they kept fighting to try and get back in the game.

"We have some more great opportunities to learn and grow during these last couple of games to finish out the regular season. Our players are giving great effort and we've gone through a tough stretch of games, but we'll keep working to get better and bounce back on Saturday at Grand Valley State."

Michigan Tech (11-14, 6-12 GLIAC) struck first Thursday night when sophomore Trent Bell hammered home a dunk one minute into the contest. Davenport (23-3, 15-3 GLIAC) answered when Khadim Dieng cut to the basket for a layup on the ensuing possession, setting in motion a back and forth pattern that continued for much of the first half.

Freshman Owen White gave the Huskies the lead back at 4-2 on a layup following a steal from sophomore Dawson Bilski, but a triple from Janeau Joubert pushed the Panthers on top again 5-4 with 16:23 to play in the first half. Bell dialed in a trey a few seconds later and Tech remained ahead until the 13:49 mark when Joubert produced points in the paint for the Panthers to make it an 8-7 score.

The Huskies then established what would be their largest lead of the night at 11-8 when Bilski tossed in consecutive jumpers. Bilski rebounded his own missed shot and had a put back to make it 9-8. White then came up with a steal to set the stage for Bilski's second field goal at the 12:07 mark of the first frame.

Unfortunately, the Panthers put together a 6-0 run to reclaim the advantage at 14-11 with 10:42 left on the clock. The Huskies then countered with six points of their own, starting with a trey from senior Bryan Heath. Bilski then connected from downtown to make it 17-14 with just under nine minutes left until the intermission.

Tech stayed ahead until Dieng knotted the score again at 17-17 with 7:10 to go in the first half. Five more points followed for the Panthers from there and they established a two possession lead for the first time. The Huskies closed the gap to one point at 22-21 on a White layup with 3:16 left, but 8 of the final 10 points before the break belonged to Davenport. Tafari Beckford converted a free throw with 36 seconds left in the half, resulting in a 30-23 lead for the Panthers at the intermission.

Tech continued to stay within striking distance early in the second half, trailing by just seven points at 36-29 thanks to a Heath jumper with 17:25 remaining in the game. The Panthers fired in the next eight points though which seemed to turn the tide back in favor. Avery Hudson's three-point basket made it 44-29 with 14:56 left in the contest.

The Huskies trailed by double digits until they made one final push in the last four minutes to try and get back in it. Trailing 67-52, Bell sparked the offense with a triple followed quickly by a layup from White. Tech's pressure defense forced a Davenport turnover and then an offensive rebound by the Huskies gave sophomore Isaac Appleby an opportunity at a layup which sliced the deficit to eight points at 67-59 with 2:25 to go. However, the Panthers would halt the Huskies offense during the final two minutes while adding five more points of their own to seal the win.

Heath found the target on 6 of 10 chances from the field on his way to a team high 17 points Thursday night. White followed with 14 points and a team best seven rebounds while Bilski chipped in nine points, had two assists and two steals. Bell contributed eight points and Appleby closed out the night with six points.

In terms of team numbers, the Huskies were on the mark with 23 of 57 shots from the field (40.4%), were 4 of 19 from three-point range (21.1%), and a perfect 9 for 9 at the free throw line (100.0%). Tech generated 11 second chance points and 22 points in the paint.

Dyllon Hudson-Emory had a game high 20 points followed by Joubert with 17 points for Davenport. Hudson posted six points and hauled down a game high 11 rebounds while Chris Rollins chipped in four points and team high five assists. The Panthers made 25 of 60 shots from the field (41.7%), were 4 for 22 from long distance (18.2%), and converted 18 of looks at the charity stripe (72.0%). They also had a slight rebounding edge at 36-34, scored 38 points in the paint, and 20 points off of Tech turnovers.

The Huskies will be back in action Saturday afternoon when they travel to Grand Valley State for another GLIAC showdown to wrap up the four game road trip. The Lakers defeated Northern Michigan 85-62 Thursday night. Saturday's tip-off is slated for 3 p.m. eastern time.