The Kentucky Wesleyan College men’s basketball team got within striking distance multiple times late in the contest, but hot-shooting Hillsdale was too much to overcome in the Panthers’ 72-60 conference loss Thursday in Hillsdale, Michigan.

After trailing 33-21 at intermission and falling behind by 15 points early in the second half, KWC (6-10, 5-4 in G-MAC) fought back and cut the deficit to seven points on four different occasions in the last 10 minutes of play. Each time, however, the Chargers had an answer.

Jo Griffin’s jump shot with 6:35 left in the game drew Wesleyan within 57-50, but Hillsdale (10-6, 6-1) put an end to any comeback hopes — reeling off a 15-2 run over the next four minutes to seal the victory.

According to KWC coach Drew Cooper, his team’s defensive presence wasn’t what it needed to be late in the contest.

“We thought we had some performances in the first half that circled into poor defense,” he said. “We had some defensive possessions there down the stretch of the game that we just had some guys feeling sorry for themselves a little bit.

“It comes down to earning stops defensively, and we didn’t do that. ... That burst of a run there with six minutes to go did us in.”

Wyatt Battaile finished with 13 points and six rebounds to pace the Panthers, who shot 47.2% from the floor,

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including 7-of-17 from 3-point range (41.2%). Adam Goetz chipped in 10 points, with Jo Griffin (seven assists) and Zach Hopewell posting nine points apiece.

Stew Currie scored eight points in his return after a four-game absence.

Both teams shot a blistering 65.2% after halftime — KWC and Hillsdale made 15-of-23 shot attempts apiece — but the Chargers also finished the game with a 10-of-20 mark from downtown. Hillsdale shot 51.9% from the field for the game and converted 8-of-9 free throws, while Wesleyan was 3-of-4 from the foul stripe.

“Offensively, we’re holding the fort down well enough with the turnovers (10 against Hillsdale),” Cooper said. “Defensively, we’ve got to figure out how to win the inches necessary to get stops.”

Dylan Lowry and Patrick Cartier scored 16 points apiece for the Chargers, with Austen Yarian adding 12 points and Tavon Brown scoring 11.

Wesleyan won the rebounding battle 29-25, leading to a 6-5 edge in second-chance scoring, but Hillsdale finished with the edge in points off turnovers (7-4) and fastbreak production (2-0). Both teams got 13 points off the bench and 30 points in the paint.

Wesleyan returns to action Saturday with a road contest at Findlay. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. CT.

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