HOUGHTON, Mich. – The Michigan Tech men's basketball team closed the opening weekend of the 2017-18 season with an impressive 87-8- victory over Lewis University Sunday on day two of the GLIAC/GLVC Challenge tournament at the SDC. The outcome remained in the balance until late in the second half when the Huskies were able to create some separation and claim the non-conference win.
"This felt just like a GLIAC type of game," Michigan Tech Head Coach Kevin Luke said. "I think Lewis is an outstanding team and really felt like both teams we played this weekend are quality programs. Lewis is going to be very similar to what we are going to see with our opponents in the GLIAC this season. I feel very fortunate because we beat a very good team, that's very well coached, and very disciplined.
"I was really proud of our guys for their effort today. We got the stops that we needed and the rebounds that we needed this afternoon. We are making plays and I think our offense is getting better. When we make those plays good things can happen for our club."
Michigan Tech (2-0) and Lewis (0-2) both put together early scoring runs at the outset of the contest. The Huskies went first by scoring seven unanswered points out of the gate to build a quick advantage. Sophomore Isaac Appleby delivered the game's first points on a triple just 14 seconds into the action off an assist by junior Kyle Monroe. Monroe then dropped in two of his game high 32 points on a layup followed by two points in the paint by Appleby to make it a 7-0 score with 17:36 to go in the first half.
Following the slow start, the Flyers got some rhythm going offensively and proceeded to record the next nine points in the game to take a 9-7 lead. Dre Bell dialed in a triple to get the run going and then Cristen Wilson was successful from behind the arc to cap the scoring burst at the 15:16 mark.
Lewis remained in front from that point on until late in the first half when they Huskies would go ahead just before the horn sounded. Tech didn't trail during that span by more than two possessions, never letting the Flyers get out of range. Behind 35-30 with just over two minutes to play in the opening half, the Huskies closed it out with six straight points to slip in front 36-35 at the break. Junior Bryan Heath knocked down two clutch three point buckets to account for the scoring while the defense shutout the Flyers during the final two plus minutes.
Michigan Tech carried the offensive momentum forward into the second half with an additional five points, increasing the advantage to 41-35. Heath drilled another triple to begin the second half and then senior A.J. Grazulis tossed in a layup with 17:55 to play in the contest. The Huskies eventually went up by seven points at 48-41 on a three pointer by Monroe with 15:47 to go, but the Flyers came storming back to eventually pull ahead again.
Nick Norton gave Lewis the lead back at 49-48 on a pair of free throws with 14:09 on the clock and from there it became a seesaw battle once again. Neither team led by more than three points as each side hit clutch shots or came up with big stops on the defensive end of the floor.
The Huskies were eventually able to establish a foothold with just under seven minutes to go in the contest. Down 66-65, Monroe gave the lead back to Tech for good on a couple of free throws in what would be the start of a 10-0 run. Appleby followed with a defensive rebound and then sprinted to the other end of the floor for a breakaway layup. Monroe tossed in four more chances at the charity stripe and Grazulis put the Huskies up 75-66 on a layup with 3:47 to go.
Lewis climbed back to within four points, but could get no closer the rest of the way. Tech had some clutch shooting from the line by Heath, Monroe, and senior Tanner Uren, a conventional three-point play by Grazulis, and jumper by Appleby to help seal the victory.
Monroe poured in a game high 32 points, grabbed nine rebounds, and dished out four assists to help power the Huskies. Monroe was 9 of 14 from the field and 10 for 12 at the free throw line. Heath broke the 20-point threshold with 22 points on the strength of a 7 for 12 shooting performance followed by Appleby with 14 points and Grazulis with 13 points. Appleby ended the game with a team high five assists.
As a team, the Huskies connected on over 50 percent of their shots for the second consecutive game. Sunday they were 29 of 55 from the field (52.7%), 10 of 22 from three-point range (45.5%), and 19 of 22 (86.4%) at the free throw line. Tech was the best free throw shooting team percentage wise in all of NCAA Division II last year and are off to a good start at the line this season (88.5%). Rebounds were even with Lewis at 28 apiece with the Huskies dishing out 18 total assists.
Wilson powered the Flyers with 26 points and seven rebounds followed by Delaney Blaylock with 21 points and five boards. Norton rounded out the double digit scorers with 12 points for Lewis Sunday. The Flyers were on target with 28 of their 53 shots from the field (52.8%), were 7 of 16 from behind the arc (43.8%), and 17 of 21 at the free throw line (81.0%).
The Huskies will embark on their first road trip of the season Friday when they head to Moorhead, Minnesota to battle Southwest Minnesota State beginning at 6 p.m. EST. Tech will then face Minnesota State Moorhead on Saturday at 5 p.m. EST to close the weekend road trip.