MARQUETTE, Mich. – The Michigan Tech men's basketball team notched win number one of the 2018-19 season Sunday afternoon with a 75-67 non-conference victory over McKendree University at the Berry Events Center. The Huskies held a 36-31 lead at the break and although the score remained close, Tech maintained the advantage for the entirety of the second half. The Huskies also controlled the paint and were effective moving the ball inside out.
"For Michigan Tech to be successful this season we really need to do a go job of establishing an inside out game," Michigan Tech Head Coach Kevin Luke said. "I thought the process moved forward a bit today as far as being able to consistently and effectively get the ball inside. Our players adjusted pretty well and I thought we looked good when we did that. I like the inside out game for this particular group right now and if we can establish that over the duration of the season, we'll be able to get to the free throw line and create some easy baskets.
"We are a young team and overall I thought we made some good strides today against a good McKendree club that has some solid offensive players. I thought we guarded pretty well and that enabled us to slow them down. We'll watch film this week to not only find out the things we need to improve on, but also look at the areas we performed well in as we get ready to face a good Minnesota Duluth team next week."
Michigan Tech (1-1) established an early 4-0 edge on a couple of baskets in the first two minutes. The Huskies won the opening tip-off as sophomore Isaac Appleby went straight to the rim for a layup to make it 2-0 on the first possession of the afternoon. Appleby then dished out one of his eight assists in the contest when he found sophomore Dawson Bilski open for a mid-range jumper for the fourth point.
McKendree came back to tie the game at 6-6 on a triple by Nate Michael at the 16:02 mark of the half, but after a little draught offensively for both teams, Tech moved out in front again. This time it was Bilski who worked his way into the paint for a layup to push the score to 8-6.
The Bearcats turned the tide in their favor over the next few minutes with an 8-0 run to build themselves a 14-8 lead. Nate Michael capped the scoring streak on a pair of free throws with 12:30 showing on the first half clock. The Huskies countered though with a quick five points to draw within one again at 14-13. Appleby connected on a mid-range jumper and then dialed in a triple with 11:18 remaining until the break.
McKendree tried to pull away midway through the half by opening up a 20-13 lead on two Nolan Gerling free throw makes. However, sophomore Trent Bell responded 20 seconds later with a layup followed by a jumper from senior Bryan Heath and a free throw courtesy of freshman Jake Witt to cut the gap back to two at 20-18 with 7:43 to go in the first.
The two clubs traded baskets from there until the final two minutes of the first period when Tech established a lead and a little momentum. With 1:31 to go until the buzzer, Heath tied the contest at 31-31 on layup and then with 21 seconds to go freshman Owen White put the Huskies back on top 33-31. Heath came up with a key defensive rebound with five seconds to go and the Huskies called a timeout at the two second to setup one final play before halftime.
Tech inbounded the ball near mid-court, and Appleby found Bell openjust behind the arc at the top of the key. Bell released a triple try right before the horn and found target, giving the Huskies a 36-31 advantage at intermission.
The Huskies then created a 10-point separation of 44-34 at the 17:30 mark of the second half on a layup by junior Ryan Schuller, but the Bearcats wouldn't go away quietly. McKendree had closed the gap down to two points again at 53-51 with just over nine minutes to play on a jumper from Nate Michael.
The final turning point for the Huskies began with a Heath layup that answered the bucket by Michael to make it 55-51. Appleby connected on a jumper and then Witt cashed in a triple for a 60-51 Tech advantage with 6:23 to go. Freshman Kyle Clow added a free throw with 4:57 left and at that juncture the Huskies had reconstructed their 10-points advantage at 61-51.
McKendree pulled back to within five points at 61-56, but down the stretch the Huskies matched the Bearcats basket for basket. In many close games, wins can be secured at the free throw line and that was the case in Sunday's contest. The Huskies converted on 10 free throw makes in the final two minutes to keep the Bearcats at arm's reach and seal the 75-67 victory.
Heath powered the Huskies with a game high 23 points on seven successful field goal attempts and a 7 for 8 conversion rate at the free throw line. Heath also added six rebounds, two assists, and one steal. Witt followed with 12 points and seven rebounds off the bench while Bilski tacked on 10 points to round out the double digit scorers. Bell and Appleby each chipped in nine points in the victory. Appleby matched freshman Kyle Clow with a team high eight rebounds and also distributed eight assists.
The Huskies dominated the paint, out-rebounding the Bearcats 47-26 on the afternoon. Tech also had 26 points in the paint, 11 points on the fast break, and 15 points off of 10 McKendree turnovers. The Huskies made good on 27 of 67 shots from the field (40.3%), were 7 of 24 from three-point range (29.2%), and 14 of 19 at the free throw line (73.7%).
Nate Michael paced McKendree with 17 points followed by Carrington Bass and Logan Kohrmann with 14 points apiece. Giovanni Offard chipped in six points and a team high seven rebounds to go along with eight assists. Tech's defense held the Bearcats offense in check to the tune of a 19 for 48 shooting performance from the floor (39.6%). Mckendree made 10 of 25 triple tries and converted 19 of 23 opportunities at the free throw line (82.6%).
The Huskies will be back in action next Sunday when they travel to the University of Minnesota Duluth for another non-conference contest. The tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m. eastern time.