ERIE, Pa. – The Michigan Tech men's basketball team closed an impressive Thanksgiving weekend with a 50-43 come from behind victory at Gannon University Saturday night in the championship game of the 2018 Gary Miller Classic. The Huskies topped Alderson Broaddus in game one Friday night 78-69 to advance to the title contest. Freshman Owen White was selected to the All-Tournament Team while senior Bryan Heath was tabbed the Most Outstanding Player.
"This was a really good win for us tonight against a well-coached Gannon team that plays hard," Michigan Tech Head Coach Kevin Luke said. "It was a tale of two halves and we really struggled to get things going offensively in the first half. We played with energy and enthusiasm, but didn't do a good job taking care of the basketball in the first. In the second half, our players took it upon themselves to correct the mistakes and we were able to turn things around. Our offense got into a good rhythm moving the ball inside out and we scored 39 points in the final period. Credit to our players for continuing to battle and defend well against a very good Gannon team."
Michigan Tech (3-2) claimed the ball on the opening tip-off and quickly scored the first two points of the night on a jumper in the paint by junior Ryan Schuller. Sophomore Dawson Bilski found him open underneath the rim for a 2-0 Tech edge 22 seconds into the action. Gannon (2-2) then recorded the next five points on a jumper from Cyril Ogbuagu followed by a triple from Victor Olawoye at the 16:16 mark of the first half.
Freshman Jake Witt and the Huskies countered with four consecutive points on a jumper in the lane and a layup to push Tech back in front 6-5 with 15:15 remaining in the first half. However, it was tough sledding for the Huskies' offense for the remainder of the period and the Golden Knights took advantage. Gannon regained the edge on two free throws courtesy of Daryl Porter and stayed in front for the rest of the half.
Defensively, the Huskies were sharp and didn't allow the Golden Knights to put the contest out of reach. Gannon managed just 22 points in the first half and although the Huskies compiled only 11 points, the 22-11 halftime deficit wasn't insurmountable. The Huskies went to the locker room at the intermission and regrouped to put together a strong second half.
The defense set the tone at the outset of the final period, getting a stop by forcing an errant jumper out of the hand of Victor Olawoye. Heath grabbed the rebound and flew down the floor to get in position for a triple, which he cited in from the wing to cut the deficit to 22-14.
Tech still continued to trail Gannon by eight points at 29-21 until the 13:18 mark of the second half. Sophomore Isaac Appleby sparked the offense with a key three-point bucket to bring the gap down to two possessions again. The Huskies were then able to string some points together to the tune of a 12-0 scoring run to go in front 33-29 with 9:18 to play in the game. Sophomore Trent Bell capped the run on a jumper, but Heath and White also made key contributions to the scoring burst.
The Golden Knights then countered to tie the score at 33-33, but White came through with a key triple to move the Huskies into the lead again at 36-33 with just under eight minutes to play. Gannon deadlocked the score again 36-36 about a minute later on a Kofi Mills free throw, but Heath cashed in a key tip-in off his own initial miss to place Tech in the lead for good.
White helped prevent a Gannon comeback bid with his second triple of the second period, extending the Huskies lead to 43-38 with 4:34 to go. Mills brought the game back to one possession on a layup for the Golden Knights at the 3:30 mark, but Heath responded with a trey of his own and just like that Tech enjoyed a 46-60 advantage. The defensive continued to silence the Gannon offensive attack and Heath iced the game away for the Huskies with four free throws in the final minute.
Heath led all-scorers with 18 points in Saturday night's victory, drilling three triples while sinking 7 of 7 attempts at the free throw line. Heath grabbed five rebounds and also dished out three assists. Heath combined for 39 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists in the two games Thanksgiving weekend on the way to being named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.
White followed with a season high 10 points, a team best six rebounds, and two blocked shots against Gannon off the bench. White recorded 19 points and 10 rebounds in the two games to secure a spot on the All-Tournament Team. Witt chipped in eight points while Bilski dished out a team high four assists.
As a team, the Huskies were 18 of 48 from the field (37.5%), 6 for 21 from three-point range (28.6%), and 8 of 12 at the free throw line (66.7%). Tech players combined to deliver 14 assists and the defense blocked four shots.
The Huskies nearly tied a school record for fewest points allowed in a game which stands at 41. That's been accomplished three times by Tech defenses in the history of the program. The most recent occurred against Saginaw Valley State on December 10th, 2005. It also happened on December 29th, 1976 against Brandon and December 10th, 1959 against Northland.
Only one Gannon player reached the 10-point threshold and that was Olawoye who led the offense with that number Saturday night. Mills added nine points to go along with a game high nine rebounds while Jonathan Harewood was the next highest scorer with seven points. Gannon's reserve players managed just six combined points while the Huskies had 20 points from players coming off the bench.
The Golden Knight's made good on 17 of 51 shots from the field (33.3%), were 3 of 11 from behind the arc (27.3%), and 6 for 12 at the free throw line (50.0%). They had a slight edge in total rebounds at 37-33.
The Huskies will be back in action when the open up the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference schedule Thursday night at Saginaw Valley State. The tip-off is slated for 8 p.m.