By JERAMY STOVER, Sports Editor
The University of Michigan-Dearborn men’s basketball team has had quite the season so far and it only got more interesting this past week.
On Wednesday the Wolverines welcomed No. 3 Davenport to the Fieldhouse and upset the Panthers 80-79 in overtime. It was one of the biggest wins in the program’s history and the first victory against Davenport since Feb. 2009.
“It felt rewarding, we put in a lot of work not just me our coaches and our players they sacrifice a lot to try to get to the point where we can compete for championships and it’s just very gratifying when you win a game like this because that’s why you put in the work,” Wolverines head coach Taylor Langley said.
Five minutes into the game sophomore guard Deonte Bell knocked down a three point shot to put the Wolverines up 12-10 – it would be the final time Davenport (4-2, 1-1 Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference) would have the lead.
With the clock nearing zeroes at the end of the first half, sophomore guard Xavier Crofford missed a lay-up attempt, but junior forward Jason Penn was there to grab the rebound and lay the ball in to put UM-Dearborn up 37-26 going into halftime.
With just over two minutes left, the Wolverines were up 10 and looking to close things out. But that’s when the Panthers began to heat up from downtown. Davenport would hit three triples in a row to bring them to within one of the Wolverines.
After senior forward Marcus Williams only hit one of his two free throws with nine seconds left, Davenport’s Nick Gamble ran down the court and got a lay-up to fall to tie the game up and send the two teams to overtime.
Crofford said Langley’s message in the huddle before overtime was two simple words.
“Finish strong. We started strong, let’s make sure we finish strong, I know it’s a grind, it’s tough, we’re tired, we’ve been playing hard, finish it out last five minutes,” Crofford said.
In overtime both teams traded baskets as the game stayed tied at 79 for nearly the final two minutes. With one second left, after grabbing a defensive rebound Penn was fouled and sent to the line for two free throws. He sank one of his two free throws giving the Wolverines their monumental upset victory.
Penn, who holds a 58 percent free throw shooting percentage in his career, wasn’t worried about making one of his free throws.
“Honestly I wasn’t nervous. When I got the rebound and they fouled me I immediately zoned everything out and I just walked straight to the line. I wasn’t nervous about missing a free throw because I was shooting pretty well from the line before, I would say I would’ve been pretty nervous if I missed the first one but I told myself just make the first free throw,” Penn said.
Penn had one of his best games of his career with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Penn did a spectacular job at the line going 9-for-12 from the charity stripe.
Crofford said Penn not only did well from the free throw line but also had a big impact on the game.
“The whole second half, really the whole game Jason was playing a phenomenal game for him to end it with those free throws was huge, huge confidence booster for him, for us it was just big,” Crofford said.
Williams also had a double-double contributing 18 points and ten rebounds. Senior guard Jeff Cain had a nice game getting 12 points himself.
Langley said that he remained confident in his players even with the Panthers comeback at the end of the second half.
“As close as the game was and as bad as things got I never lost confidence in our guys I really believed from start to finish that we were going to win this game. I thought we were very prepared I thought we matched up well with (Davenport) and even when they forced overtime I never doubted and I don’t think (the players) did either,” Langley said.
On Saturday the Wolverines were on the road traveling to Lourdes for a showdown with the Gray Wolves. UM-Dearborn didn’t respond well from their big win earlier in the week and fell to Lourdes 68-64.
The Wolverines (5-3, 1-1) took a 51-50 lead with just under nine minutes left to play after Penn knocked down a free throw. But quickly after Lourdes (2-6, 1-1) went on a 8-0 run to take the lead for good and pull away from UM-Dearborn.
The closest UM-Dearborn came was when Penn hit another free throw with 37 seconds left to put the Wolverines down two, but the Gray Wolverines hit two more free throws on the next possession to seal the victory.
Freshman Cody Kegley led the Wolverines with a career high 18 points, shooting 87.5 percent from the field including sinking 4-of-5 shots from three point range. Cain and Williams contributed with eight points each.
UM-Dearborn will look to regroup and collect another big win when No. 20 Indiana Tech comes to the Fieldhouse on Wednesday. Then on Saturday the Wolverines travel to Indiana University-Kokomo.