Tech Women's Basketball dashes past Panthers

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mi. The Michigan Tech women's basketball team secured another key Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference victory with a 72-53 decision Thursday night at Davenport. The Huskies began the game with a 14-2 scoring run and outpaced the Panthers 23-13 in the fourth quarter to lock down their ninth straight win.

"I thought we had a good start and a good finish to the game tonight," Michigan Tech Head Coach Sam Hoyt said. "We just let things go a bit in the second and third quarters. It was great to see both our post players, Elizabeth [Kelliher] and Bella [O'Brien], have big games against another good post player. We really separated in the fourth quarter when Elizabeth made some big baskets in transition.

"I also thought Cassidy [Trotter] did a good job making reads when she got into the paint. Anytime you can have five different players in double figures that's a good sign for your offense. We will need everyone contributing on Saturday again and we have to put together a full 40 minutes against a very good Grand Valley State team."

Davenport (5-20, 3-15 GLIAC) opened the game with the lead and it would prove to be the only advantage for the Panthers Thursday night. Martyna Pioro connected on a mid-range jumper to make it a 2-0 score just over 20 seconds into the contest. Michigan Tech (19-7, 15-3 GLIAC) tied the game on a layup by junior Abbie Botz and then seized the advantage by reeling off 12 more consecutive points on the way to a 14-2 lead with 3:48 to go in the first quarter. Botz, senior Isabella O'Brien, senior Elizabeth Kelliher, sophomore Cassidy Trotter, and freshman Sloane Zenner all produced points during that stretch.

The Panthers then countered with five straight points to close the gap to 14-7, but Kelliher dialed in a jumper with just under a minute to play in the first quarter to make it 16-7 with 10 minutes in the books. The Huskies continued to create separation at the outset of the second quarter with 10 more unanswered points. Zenner found the bottom of the net from three-point land to begin the scoring burst followed by a trey from Botz, a pair of free throws courtesy of O'Brien, and a layup from junior Hannah Hobson. Hobson's bucket at the 5:55 juncture of the second quarter gave the Huskies a 26-7 cushion.

Tech's defense kept the Panthers off the board for nearly five minutes into the second quarter. Toni Grace ended the drought for Davenport via a layup with 5:23 to go in the first half. The Panthers were able to regain some ground in the final few minutes of the second quarter, pulling to within 12 points at 30-18 on a triple by Leighten Koepke right before the intermission.

Davenport chipped away even further at Tech's lead throughout the majority of the third quarter. In fact, the Panthers has closed the gap to just four points at 40-36 on a jumper by Haley Gibbons with 3:10 left in the period. The two sides then traded baskets for the next two minutes, leaving the score at 44-40 in favor of the Huskies with 1:36 remaining in the third frame.

Fortunately, the Huskies were able to regroup with the final five points of quarter to go up 49-40 after a basket by O'Brien. Tech continued to build the momentum at the start of the fourth thanks to a Botz free throw that boosted the edge to double digits again at 50-40. Leading 59-49 with just under six minutes to go, the Huskies put the game out of reach with a 13-4 run. Kelliher kicked off the run with back to back layups followed by points in the paint from junior Ellie Welsh to make it 65-49. The Panthers managed to produced just four points the rest of the way.

The Huskies had five players with 10 or more points Thursday night, led by Kelliher with a game high 17 points. Kelliher converted 8 of 11 shots from the field, grabbed five rebounds and blocked three shots. O'Brien was 5 of 9 from the floor on her way to a career best 13 points followed by Trotter and Zenner with 11 points apiece. Botz chipped in 10 points and secured a team high eight rebounds. Trotter distributed a team high six assists and had five steals on the defensive end of the floor.

As a team, the Huskies were successful on 30 of 62 shots from the field (48.4%), were 6 for 14 from three-point range (42.9%), and 6 of 10 from the free throw line (60.0%). Tech's defense forced 20 Davenport turnovers that led to 23 points on the offensive end of the floor. The Huskies also produced 38 points in the paint compared to just 22 for Davenport.

Haley Gibbons paced the Davenport offense off the bench with 12 points followed by Jenna Falkenberg and Koepke with 10 points each. Falkenberg had 12 rebounds for the double-double and dished out five assists. The Panthers were on target with 24 of 62 shots from the field (38.7%), were 2 of 18 from three-point range (11.1%), and 3 for 4 at the free throw line (75.0%). They also had a slight edge in rebounding at 39-34.

The Huskies, who are now in sole possession of first place in the GLIAC North Division, will travel to 10th ranked Grand Valley State for another conference contest Saturday afternoon. The Lakers defeated Northern Michigan 50-37 Thursday night. Saturday's tip-off is slated for 1 p.m. eastern time.