MTU Men's Basketball can't claw way past Panthers

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HOUGHTON, Mi. The Michigan Tech men's basketball team fell to Davenport University 77-68 in a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference contest Saturday afternoon at the SDC Gym. The Huskies built an 11-point lead before the Panthers stormed back in the second half to grab the win.

"Today's game was an exact opposite of what we've faced in contests so far this season," Head Coach Kevin Luke said. "We've normally been behind and had to try and battle our way back, but today we struggled playing with the lead. Credit goes to Davenport for hanging in there and willing themselves to the win. We were able to build a double digit lead, but were unable to maintain our intensity. This is another learning experience for our club and we'll look to grow from this and get better.

"We'll go back to work this week in practice and focus on correcting the things we struggled with today. We also want to make sure our players are rested and ready to go for a big rivalry game next Saturday at Northern Michigan. The Wildcats are a really good team that is solid offensively and plays hard on defense. We have to be sharp and play tough, because in rivalry games a lot of times it's the tougher team that comes out on top."

Michigan Tech (9-8, 4-6 GLIAC) fired out of the gate Saturday afternoon on a 7-2 run to establish an early lead. Freshman Owen White got the Huskies rolling on a layup 30 seconds into the action followed by a triple and layup courtesy of sophomore Isaac Appleby. Davenport (14-3, 7-3 GLIAC) then closed the gap to one point at 7-6 with 15:33 to play in the first half on a jumper by Avery Hudson and two free throws via Dyllon Hudson-Emory.

Although the score remained close, the Huskies were able to maintain the lead throughout the first half of play. Tech's largest advantage of the opening 20 minutes was six points at 20-14, which occurred with 4:18 showing on the clock following a layup by senior Bryan Heath. The Panthers didn't let the Huskies completely pull away though and trimmed their deficit back down to one again at 27-26. Hudson-Emory sent in a three-pointer with 46 seconds to play until the intermission, but an Appleby layup just before the buzzer sent the Huskies into the locker room with some momentum and a 29-26 lead.

That momentum carried into the opening moments of the second half as the Huskies went right back to work on the offensive end of the floor. Heath dialed up a triple to begin the second followed by another trey from Appleby. White then sliced his way to the basket for a layup and the Huskies found themselves on top 37-26 with 18:29 to play in the contest. The eight straight points to start the second half combined with the two points to finish off the first period created a 10-0 scoring run for Tech.

The Huskies continued to maintain an 11-point lead at 40-29 thanks to a Heath triple with 17:26 to go, but unfortunately a scoring burst by the Panthers quickly followed. Over the next five minutes, Davenport generated 19 consecutive points and grabbed a 48-40 lead with 12:47 to play in the contest. The run culminated on a conventional three-point play by Hudson-Emory.

Chris Rollins then gave the Panthers a double digit lead at 53-42 by way of a layup and the separation grew to as many as 17 points at 67-50 with 3:18 left following a triple by Janeau Joubert. The Huskies didn't give up though and engineered an 8-0 run to get back into contention in the final moments.

White connected from downtown and then added two free throws before Heath sank a trey to make it 67-58 with 1:18 on the clock. The Huskies were then able to bring the deficit down to five points at 73-68 with 18 seconds left to work with. Sophomore Trent Bell sighted in a pair of free throws, but unfortunately those would be the final points of the day for Tech. The Panthers were able to close things out with four consecutive conversions at the charity stripe in the final seconds to seal the win.

Heath guided the Huskies Saturday with a team high 20 points followed by Appleby with 15 points and a team best three assists and two steals. White tossed in 14 points and contributed a pair of steals on the defensive end of the floor as well. Freshman Jake Witt chipped in eight points and anchored the paint for the Huskies with a team high eight rebounds.

In terms of team numbers, the Huskies were successful on 20 of 53 shots from the field (37.7%), made 8 of 25 opportunities from three-point range (32.0%), and converted 20 of 26 chances at the free throw line (76.9%). Rebounds were even at 35 apiece, but the Huskies recorded 17 second chance points off of 11 offensive boards.

Hudson had a game high 22 points to power the Panthers followed closely by Hudson-Emory with 21 points and a team best eight rebounds in Saturday's game. Joubert added 15 points and Rollins contributed 12 points and seven assists to round out the double digit scorers. As a team, the Panthers found the bottom of the net on 24 of 54 shots from the field (44.4%), were 7 for 19 from behind the arc (36.8%), and 22 of 26 at the free throw line (84.6%).

The Huskies are back in action on Saturday when they make the trip to Marquette to battle rival Northern Michigan University. The tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m. eastern time.