By Thomas Becker
Photo Janessa Hogan
The path to the postseason just got a whole lot harder for UPEI.
In an important game worth four points in the standings, the seventh-place Panthers fell to the sixth-place Acadia Axemen 84-68 Friday night.
With the win, the Axemen now hold an eight-point cushion over the Panthers for the final playoff spot.
Freshman guard Trevon Grant led the way for Acadia with a double-double, scoring 22 points on 8-of-20 shooting (3-of-4 from three), while pulling in 10 rebounds and dishing out four assists.
"We showed we can fight," said Grant. "We have the talent to win and that was a big one for us."
Acadia's Nick De Palma came out of the gate firing at will with the deep ball, scoring six of the team's opening nine points, as they led by five early.
Grant also started out hot, helping out his backcourt partner with eight quick points to push the lead to 14-5.
Following a timeout, the Panthers (4-8) regrouped and trimmed it to 17-9 on back-to-back layups by Tyler Scott and Lorenzo Parker. But a Kyle Arseneault triple and a Ben Miller lay-in extended Acadia's lead to 24-11 after one. Miller finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
Grant and De Palma combined for 14 of the 24 first-quarter points for the Axemen (6-6), who held UPEI to 21 per cent shooting in the quarter.
Samy Mohamed, off the bench, drained a three-pointer to cut the deficit to fewer than 10 after the teams traded baskets in the opening minutes of the second.
Both teams struggled to connect from the field for a short period until Grant delivered from deep, pushing the lead back up to 37-24. He led all scorers at the half with 11.
Erik Nissen then finished at the rim with a nice finger roll after a Panther miscue led to a 2-on-1 break the other way, as his Axemen carried a comfortable 44-29 halftime lead. Nissen chipped in with 11 points and 13 rebounds for the double-double.
Milorad Sedlarevic opened the second half with a long-range jumper, but Acadia responded with a 10-4 run, capped off by a Miller three-pointer to extend the lead to 54-36.
A timeout couldn't stop the bleeding for the Panthers, whose rough shooting night continued into the third as they finished the night shooting just 32 per cent. The Axemen capitalized on the struggling home squad, pushing the lead back up to 18 where they led after three.
It was more of the same in the fourth as Acadia wasted little time putting their opponent to bed, extending the lead to as many as 27. After the coaches emptied their benches, the Axemen handed the Panthers just their second loss in the last five games, 84-68 the final.
The Panthers continue their four-game homestand on Jan. 28 when they welcome the Saint Mary's Huskies. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m.