DULUTH, Minn. – The Michigan Tech men's basketball team lost a hard fought non-conference contest against a solid University of Minnesota Duluth team 61-56 on the road Sunday afternoon. The Huskies built a 12-point lead in the first half before the Bulldogs rallied late in the second half to escape with the win.
"We are always saddened by a loss, but our players really battled today against a good Minnesota Duluth club," Michigan Tech Head Coach Kevin Luke said. "We got into a little bit of foul trouble and it was tough for us to keep some key players on the floor. Everyone worked hard, but we really struggled to stop Brandon Myer tonight. I thought there were some things we did really well, but there were some other aspects of the game that we didn't do the Tech way.
"We are asking the players to do a lot right now and we all have to be patient in the process as this team continues to grow. Our team will bounce back and we have some very capable young players on the floor. For us to go on the road and play Duluth this tough, means there is something good there. We'll get back to practice this week and focus on doing the little things well that can put us over the hump in these types of close games."
Minnesota Duluth (3-1) began the afternoon by sinking a pair of free throws in the opening 12 seconds of the contest. Brandon Myer fired up both attempts, which were the first of 33 total for of the Bulldogs in Sunday's game. Michigan Tech (1-2) got the offense rolling at the 18:12 mark of the first half when junior Ryan Schuller cashed in a layup off an assist by sophomore Trent Bell to make it 2-2.
The Bulldogs slipped in front again momentarily at 4-2 on a layup from Logan Rohrscheib with just under 16 minutes to go in the half, but they wouldn't stay ahead for long. The Huskies engineered a 14-0 scoring surge to go up 16-4 midway through the first. Sophomore Isaac Appleby got things going on a jumper and layup before sophomore Dawson Bilski filled up a triple to make it 9-4 with 12:35 on the clock.
Bilski notched two more points on a layup and then senior Bryan Heath had the honors of recording the final five points in the run. Heath posted points in the paint on a layup and then dialed in a trey at the 10:33 mark to make it 16-4. The bucket was setup by a Bell steal and then the assist was delivered courtesy of freshman Kyle Clow.
Minnesota Duluth's defense limited the Huskies to two points over the next four minutes and chipped away at the Tech advantage. The Bulldogs eventually tied the contest up at 18-18 on a Myer layup with 5:49 to go until the break. The Huskies quickly slipped back in front 23-18 thanks to a jumper from Appleby and another trey by Heath with 4:10 remaining on the first half clock.
The Huskies were eventually able to push the lead back out to seven points at 27-20 when freshman Jake Witt worked his way into the paint for a layup at the 1:33 mark. Freshman Owen White setup the bucket with a precession pass into the lane. A layup by the Bulldogs Luke Harris momentarily made it a five-point spread at 27-22, but with time winding down in the half, Appleby drained a mid-range jumper to send Tech into the locker room with a 29-22 advantage at the intermission.
In the opening moments of the second half, Tech's lead fluctuated between five and seven points until Sean Burns brought Minnesota Duluth to within three again 33-30. Burns kept a possession alive on an offensive rebound and converted two of UMD's 12 second chance points on a layup with 16:28 to go in the contest. The Bulldogs drew even at 35-35 on two Myer free throws and from there the teams traded points over the next couple of minutes.
The Huskies grabbed the edge again when Witt converted two looks at the charity stripe and then a few seconds later Clow made it a 41-37 score at the 10:11 mark of the second half. Unfortunately, the Huskies were unable to create anything more than a four-point separation as the Bulldogs eventually slipped in front again at 44-43 on a Hunter Plamann made free throw.
Minnesota Duluth added three more points to the lead, but then the Huskies came storming back with a 7-0 scoring run, culminating on a Heath triple to make the score 50-47 in Tech's favor with 4:48 on the clock. The Huskies held a 53-52 edge with 3:25 to go after a Heath free throw, but the Bulldogs countered with a Burns layup and two more successful attempts at the free throw line from Myer to pull ahead 56-53 with 1:46 to go.
The Bulldogs wouldn't relinquish the advantage again from that point forward, but Tech kept battling to the end. Heath converted an old fashion three-point play with 23 seconds left to draw the Huskies within two at 58-56. The Bulldogs made just one of two attempts at the free throw line on the ensuing possession, leaving the door open for the Huskies possibly tie it up again on a triple. However, the look by Tech didn't fall and the Bulldogs were able to seal their win with two free throws by Plamann with nine seconds to go.
Heath guided the Huskies with 19 points and four rebounds followed by Appleby with 10 points, seven rebounds, and five assists. Witt chipped in eight points and grabbed a team high eight rebounds off the bench in Sunday's contest. He also had three of Tech's six blocked shots on the afternoon. As a team, the Huskies converted 23 of 52 shots from the field (44.2%), were 4 of 12 from three-point range (33.3%), and 6 for 10 at the free throw line (60.0%).
Meyer paced the Bulldogs with a game high 27 points and 14 rebounds. He made 8 of 17 shots from the floor, but did a lot of damage at the free throw line where he found success on 10 of 12 attempts. Burns followed with 13 points and matched Meyer with 14 boards in Sunday's game. The Bulldogs were limited to 19 of 55 shooting from the field (34.5%) and 1 of 11 from behind the arc (9.1%) by Tech's defense, but made 22 of 33 free throws (66.7%) in Sunday's game. They also had 12 second chance points and 34 total points in the paint.
The Huskies will head to Erie, PA for Thanksgiving weekend where they will face Alderson Broaddus Friday night at 5:30 p.m. in the Gannon University Holiday Tournament. Tech will then play either Gannon or Fayetteville State in the consolation or championship game Saturday evening to close the weekend.