GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Michigan Tech men's basketball team held on for a big 69-61 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference win Saturday afternoon at Davenport University. The Huskies led for a good portion of the game, but the Panthers were lurking close behind until the final buzzer.
"Any win on the road is cherished and give credit to our players for bouncing back in a big way this afternoon," Michigan Tech Head Coach Kevin Luke said. "We started a little slow, but we were able to regroup and adjust against Davenport who is athletic and defended as well as anybody has against us this year. If you can get a win on the road in this gym, you have had a nice afternoon. I really liked our balance today and we emphasized defense in practice yesterday. We had some very good stops coming down the stretch which helped us secure the victory. On offense, once we got settled in and were able to hit some back cuts, we began to loosen them up a bit and that enabled us to get into a rhythm.
"This was a huge win for us today. If you can take care of business at home and split on the road against quality teams you are going to give yourself a chance. We have a good club and we just need to keep growing and having each other's backs. This win today will continue to instill confidence in our players. If we keep doing things the Tech way, whether we are at home or on the road, we'll continue to be successful."
The defenses for both Michigan Tech (14-5, 8-3 GLIAC) and Davenport (14-7, 6-5 GLIAC) were on display at the outset of Saturday's game and that theme would continue throughout the contest. The Panthers struck first on an Alonzo Chatman layup, but it took nearly two minutes to do it. Senior Kyle Monroe put the Huskies on the board for the first time when he fired in a triple to make it 3-2 with 17:02 to go in the first half.
The Panthers went up 6-3 on a Chris Pearl layup with 12:42 on the clock before a conventional three-point play courtesy of Monroe knotted the score at 6-6. With the score still tied 11-11 after a layup from junior Isaac Appleby, Tech came up with two consecutive defensive stops and turned those into points on the offensive end of the floor. Sophomore Owen White followed Appleby's bucket with a layup and then tacked on a jumper to increase the edge to 15-11 with 8:39 left until intermission.
Davenport drew to within one at 15-14 before a White triple and layup courtesy of junior Dawson Bilski extended the lead to 20-14. Then in the final three minutes of the first half, the Huskies created more separation and a double-digit lead at 32-21 heading into the break. The 9-2 run to close the half was sparked by a jumper from freshman Eric Carl followed by a two-point field goal from Monroe. Sophomore Carter Johnston dashed to the basket for a layup, White added a free throw, and Appleby hammered home a dunk right before the buzzer to put an exclamation point on the opening period.
The Panthers though would not go quietly on their home floor and proceeded to slice Tech's lead down to three points at 33-30 on an Evan Hines triple at the 17:31 mark of the second half. Monroe helped slow down Davenport's charge with a triple to extend the score two a possession margin once again at 36-30. However, the Panthers were able to draw to within one at 38-37 on another Hines three-point field goal. Monroe kept them at bay again with the next five points, but Davenport continued to battle and tied the score at 45-45 on a Chris Rollins jumper with 10:27 to play.
Bilski then stepped up and converted two key free throws followed by a layup from Johnston with 8:52 to go in the game, resulting in a 49-45 Tech advantage. The Huskies would remain in front the rest of the game, but for the majority of that time the lead would be no more than two possessions. White bumped the gap to eight points again at 55-47 on a layup with 6:28 to go, but by the time the 2:52 mark rolled around the Panthers were within four again at 60-56.
The Huskies were finally able to relax a little more when Bilski sank two free throws followed by a White trey which was setup by an Appleby steal. White's connection from long distance pushed the lead to nine points again at 65-56 and from there the Huskies were able to close out the game with stops on defense and key makes at the free throw line.
Monroe powered the Tech offense once again on Saturday with a game high 23 points while also posting nine rebounds on the stat sheet. White fired in 16 points and grabbed six rebounds while Bilski rounded out the double-digit scorers with 11 points, six boards, and a team high six assists. Carl chipped in eight points and Appleby tacked on seven points and a team high 11 rebounds.
The Huskies closed out Saturday's victory making 24 of 51 shots from the field (47.1%), were 8 for 19 from three-point range (42.1%), and converted 13 of 23 chances at the free throw line (56.5%). Tech out-rebounded Davenport 43-28, had 12 second chance points, and 26 points in the paint. The Huskies had great production from the bench Saturday, with the reserves accounting for 19 of the total points.
Tafari Beckford guided the Panthers with 16 points and six rebounds followed closely by Hines with 15 points and a team high seven rebounds. Chris Pearl contributed 10 points off the bench and Rollins tacked on nine points while distributing a game high seven assists. Tech's defense limited the Panthers to a 24 of 62 shooting performance from the field (38.7%), were just 5 of 21 from behind the arc (23.8%), and 8 of 12 at the free throw line (66.7%).
The Huskies continue their four-game road trip Thursday night when they head to Northwood for a GLIAC showdown with the Timberwolves. Tech will then battle Saginaw Valley State on the road next Saturday. Thursday's game is slated for 8 p.m. eastern time.