SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – The Michigan Tech men's basketball team held off Davenport University for a 71-64 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference victory on Thursday afternoon in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. The Huskies maintained the lead for nearly 38 of the 40 minutes, but the Panthers remained within striking distance all the way to the end.
"When we executed our offense and defense today we looked like a good team and were able to create some separation," Michigan Tech Head Coach Kevin Luke said. "When went up by 16 points in the second half, that's where we needed to put the petal to the metal and continue to pull away. We got a little bit out of rhythm and didn't execute well which helped them to get back in it.
"Kyle [Monroe] had big game for us which was key and I thought we played a pretty solid game defensively, limiting them to 64 points. Our zone defense was really good today and helped us create some turnovers which led to points. We've been working on it a little bit more because I think we need it as a weapon going into the second half of the GLIAC schedule."
Michigan Tech (9-9, 6-5 GLIAC) got on the board first Thursday afternoon when senior A.J. Grazulis took the ball away from John McCloud, setting up a mid-range jumper by junior Bryan Heath. They were two of what would end up being 25 Tech points off Davenport (9-10, 3-8 GLIAC) turnovers.
The Panthers countered with the next four points to grab their only lead of the contest. Nick Malonga put Davenport on top 4-2 with a jumper at the 18:04 mark of the opening half. The Huskies then created their first double digit lead of the afternoon thanks to an 11-0 run. Junior Kyle Monroe, who would go on to score a career high 41 points, tied the game at 4-4 followed by a Heath triple to vault the Huskies in front. Monroe and Heath also combined for the next six points to cap the run and make it a 13-4 score with just over 16 minutes to play in the first half.
The Panthers would then chip away at their deficit, eventually drawing back to within three points at 19-16 on an Orlando Little layup with 12:33 on the first half clock. From there, Tech's lead would fluctuate between one and three possessions for the remainder of the half. When the first half buzzer sounded, the Huskies found themselves in front 36-31 with 20 minutes in the books.
A quick start by Davenport to open the second half made things a little too close for comfort for Tech. Delano Smith and Robbie Bramhill combined for six points to chop the Huskies' lead down to one point at 38-37. Fortunately, the Huskies countered with their second 11 -0 run, capped by sophomore Tommy Lucca's jumper, to widen the gap back to double digits at 49-37 with 15:16 to go in the second half.
Lucca then connected on a triple with 11:48 to play to give the Huskies their largest lead of the day at 57-41. However, the Panthers wouldn't go quietly and began to chip away at Tech's edge. Bramhill registered five quick points with just under three minutes to go, reducing the Huskies' lead to 67-62. Grazulis came up with a big basket at the 1:33 mark to make it a seven-point game again at 69-62.
Smith then converted two free throws for Davenport, but Tech's defense buckled down in the final minute to get a stop. Two free throws by Monroe with 35 seconds go and two more stops by the defense sealed the with for the Huskies.
Monroe led all scorers with his career high 41 points for the Huskies in Thursday's win. Monroe knocked down 13 of 23 shots from the field and 9 of 11 attempts at the free throw line. In addition to his scoring, Monroe grabbed eight rebounds. Heath followed Monroe with 10 points while Lucca chipped in seven points and registered a team high six assists and five steals. Grazulis matched Monroe with eight rebounds and had six points.
The Huskies wrapped up the day sinking 25 of 54 shots from the field (46.3%), they were 10 of 25 from behind the three-point arc (40.0%), and 11 of 13 at the free throw line (84.6%). Tech enjoyed a slight rebounding edge at 30-29 and forced 15 Davenport turnovers.
The Panthers were guided by Smith who recorded 20 points followed by Bramhill with 16 points and Nick Malonga with 11 points. Bramhill, McCloud, and Orlando Little all had a team best five rebounds. Davenport made 22 of 49 shots from the field (44.9%), were 10 of 24 from three-point range (41.7%), and 10 of 12 at the free throw line (83.3%).
The Huskies return home on Sunday to face rival Northern Michigan at the SDC to begin the second half of the GLIAC schedule. The Wildcats won the first meeting of the season on December 17th in Marquette 77-65. The tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m.