January 11, 2014

Huskies Unable to Complete Comeback at Ashland

ASHLAND, Ohio – The Michigan Tech men's basketball team fell 71-70 on Saturday (Jan. 11) at Ashland. The Huskies came back from a 16-point first half deficit, and Ben Stelzer had a chance to win it for Tech but had his shot blocked as the clock ran out.

With the Huskies down one, Tech coach Kevin Luke called a timeout with 10.2 seconds left and drew up a play for Stelzer. Tech had to go the full length of the floor and got Stelzer the ball off a down screen. He drove to the left side and picked up his dribble just inside the lane. He had to throw it up before the buzzer but Will Evans was there to swat it away and the clock expired.

"We drew up the right play but Ben fumbled the ball a little bit and couldn't get a good shot," Luke said. "I was happy with the execution of the play, and we got it to the right guy. We thought Austin would be doubled so we went to Ben."

Luke Heller made a pair of free throws to give the Huskies a four-point lead (70-66) with 1:58 left. From there the Eagles scored the final five points of the game. Boo Osborne buried a three with 46 second left to cut it down to one.

A Tech turnover gave Ashland the ball back and DaWuan Thomas scored the game-winner with 10 seconds left on a driving layup that was just out of reach of the Husky defender.

"Thomas made a tough shot there for the game-winner," added Luke. "You have to give Ashland credit. They played well all game and we dug ourselves too big of a hole in the first half."

Ashland (6-6, 3-5 GLIAC) dominated the first half, leading by as many as 16 with 2:26 left before halftime. The Eagles nailed six 3-pointers in the opening frame and led 45-32 at the break.

The comeback started early in the second half as the Huskies went on an 11-2 run and cut the lead to five, less than four minutes in. Austin Armga buried a jumper followed by 3-pointers off the fingertips of Alex Culy, Troy Hecht and Stelzer on three straight possessions.

Luke—always known for his disciplined man-to-man defense—went with a 2-3 zone for most of the second half, and it paid off for the Huskies. Ashland shot only 36 percent in the second half and was 2-for-10 from three.

A trey by Jason Hawke with 12:05 left cut the lead to four and Tech continued to chip away. Hawke added another three followed by back-to-back jumpers by Armga and it was all tied at 58 with 9:22 remaining.

Four minutes later the Huskies took their first lead of the game after four straight points from Armga. Hawke buried another three and Stelzer made a layup for a four-point (68-64) lead with 3:27 on the clock.

Armga finished with a game-high 25 points on 9-for-16 shooting. He also had five rebounds and played all 40 minutes. Stelzer scored 15 points while Hawke added 13, making all four of his shots from downtown. Heller had a career-high four blocks in the paint and kept Evans in check all game. He also had eight points and eight rebounds.

"Austin and Ben were their usual selves, but I thought Jason stepped up offensively and Luke was very good on defense," said Luke. "It was just too much to come back from being down 16."

Tech shot 60 percent in the second half and ended the game at 47.7 percent (21-for-44) from the floor. The Huskies were 7-for-14 from three and 21-for-25 (84 percent) from the charity stripe.

Thomas (20), Evans (11) and Osborne (10) led a balanced Eagles offense. Brook Turson and Adrian Cook each added nine. Ashland shot 43.3 percent (23-for-53) from the field and out-rebounded Tech 31-26.

The Huskies are now 9-3 overall and 5-3 in the GLIAC and open play against the GLIAC North Division next weekend, hosting Ferris State and Grand Valley State at the SDC Gym.