WESTVILLE, Ind. – The Michigan Tech men's basketball team battled back late in the second half to defeat Purdue Northwest 75-66 on the road in a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference showdown Saturday afternoon. The Huskies trailed most of the way, but outscored the Pride 14-3 in the final three minutes to remain unbeaten in the conference and extend their winning streak to five games.
"Purdue Northwest is a dangerous team and they played hard today," Michigan Tech Head Coach Kevin Luke said. "I'm not going to say that we weren't ready to play, but we can't be as average as were today at the beginning of games. To our guy's credit though, we kept battling and pulled out the victory. We were able to get some key stops at crucial times towards the end of the game to put us over the top. They made it difficult on us because each time we tried to draw close they would come back with a key basket or two of their own. It's all part of the process and once we get it we are going to be good.
"We have another big game coming up next weekend at rival Northern Michigan and it will be a battle for first place in the GLIAC North Division standings. They are going to be ready and play as hard as they can and we have to prepare ourselves properly so we can go down there and represent ourselves well."
Senior A.J. Grazulis gave Michigan Tech (7-3, 4-0 GLIAC) their only advantage of the first half when he connected on a layup 55 seconds into the action on Saturday. Purdue Northwest (0-9, 0-4 GLIAC) would then slip in front 3-2 on a triple by Tyree Coe at the 18:07 mark of the opening half. The Pride continued to generate momentum and found themselves ahead by double digits for the first time at 14-4 following another trey by Coe with just under 12 minutes on the clock.
Trailing 27-16 with 4:35 remaining until the break, the Huskies were able to make some headway and close the gap to single digits. Tech used a 7-0 scoring run on layups by senior Dillon Gordon and junior Kyle Monroe to make it a 27-23 score with 2:57 to play until halftime. It remained a two possession game for the rest of the half with the Pride eventually carrying a 33-27 edge into the locker room at the intermission.
Purdue Northwest built its lead back to double digits again at 50-39 on a Richard Robertson three-pointer with 13:16 left to play in the game. However, the Huskies kept the game from getting out of reach and pulled to within three points at 55-52 following two free throws from Monroe at the 8:24 mark. Torrance Johnson answered with a triple for the Pride to keep Tech two possessions behind at least for the time being.
With 4:35 left in the second half, Monroe cashed in two more attempts at the line to draw the Huskies to within one at 60-59. A turnover by Coe then setup a layup by Monroe with just under four minutes left to power Tech ahead for the first time since the opening minute of the game 61-60. Coe momentarily gave the Pride the lead again at 63-61 when he dialed in a trey with 2:59 left.
However, the Huskies would take control of the game in the final three minutes to pull out the victory. Grazulis kicked off the 14-3 run with a pair of free throws that deadlocked the score at 63-63. Junior Bryan Heath found the bottom of the net on a layup and after being fouled, converted a conventional three-point play with a free throw make. Freshman Isaac Appleby generated a steal and went coast to coast for a layup and from there the Huskies iced the game away at the free throw line.
Monroe finished the afternoon as Tech's leading scorer on the strength of 29 points and eight rebounds. Monroe was 11 for 11 at the free throw line and combined that with Thursday's performance was a perfect 27 for 27 on the week. Monroe also was successful on 7 of 7 attempts at the charity stripe against Northwood last Saturday, giving him 34 straight makes at the line which is a new school record. The previous mark of 33 was set by Ben Stelzer from December 6th, 2012 to February 7th, 2013.
Appleby followed Monroe with 11 points and Gordon rounded out the double digit scorers with 10 points. Grazulis added nine points while freshman Trent Bell chipped in a season and career high eight points. Heath tacked on eight points as well with senior Tanner Uren distributing a team best four assists.
The Huskies finished the game making good on 25 of 60 shots from the field (41.7%), were 4 of 20 from three-point range (20.0%), and 21 of 22 at the free throw line (95.5%). Tech's defense caused 17 Pride turnovers which led to 18 points on the offensive end of the floor. The Huskies also recorded 38 points in the paint.
Coe guided Purdue Northwest with 23 points followed by Johnson with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Chris Nunn was the other double digit scorer for the Pride with 14 points. Purdue Northwest made 23 of 50 total shots from the field (46.0%), were 11 of 22 from long distance (50.0%), and 9 of 12 at the free throw line (75.0%).
The Huskies will be back on the court Sunday December 17th when they travel to Marquette to face rival Northern Michigan at 1 p.m.