SAGINAW, Mich. – The Michigan Tech men's basketball team extended its unbeaten streak to three games and opened the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference schedule with a 61-56 victory at Saginaw Valley State Thursday night. The Huskies held an opponent to under 70 points for the fifth time in six games and limited the Cardinals success rate on field goals to 36.2 percent. It's the fourth time the Huskies have done that to an opposing offense to begin the year.
"It wasn't that pretty, but that's the way our games have to be right now," Michigan Tech Head Coach Kevin Luke said. "We are going to be a capable team and this process is going to take some time, but you can see signs of progress. Saginaw Valley State is a solid athletic team and our guys hung on to close out the win. To limit a team that's averaging 76 points per game to 56 points in their own gym, was an outstanding effort defensively.
"It's awesome for our team to now go into Saturday's game against Northwood on a three game winning streak. It was great to see the energy and excitement of our players in the locker room after the game. We'll enjoy this one tonight and then prepare to face another tough opponent in Northwood on Saturday."
Saginaw Valley State (2-4, 0-1 GLIAC) struck first on a Darnell Hoskins, Jr. triple 11 seconds into the action Thursday night. Michigan Tech (4-2, 1-0 GLIAC) then countered with four points in the paint on a hook shot by junior Ryan Schuller and a layup on a drive to the basket from senior Bryan Heath. The two teams basically traded basket for basket over the next few minutes with neither side holding more than a one possession lead during that stretch.
The Cardinals went up 16-12 with 9:28 to play in the first half on a layup by Myles Belyeu and then increased the gap to 23-17 courtesy of a Fred John Jr. layup at the 7:31 mark. Still trailing 26-19 with just under six minutes to go until the break, the Huskies began to chip away at their deficit. Sophomore Trent Bell dropped in a tough mid-range jumper and then sophomore Dawson Bilski filled up a three-pointer to draw Tech to within two points at 26-24 with 4:16 remaining in the first half.
Bell knotted the score on a layup and then freshman Owen White put the Huskies back on top 28-26 with points in the paint off a layup. White eventually gave the Huskies a four-point 32-28 edge going into the locker room at halftime. White sank a pair of clutch free throws for the final two points in the opening half and put some more momentum and confidence in Tech's corner.
The Huskies increased the lead to six points in the early moments of the second half when Bilski made it 35-29 score with 17:54 to play. The advantage then grew to 38-30 on an Isaac Appleby triple with just over 16 minutes to go in the contest. The Cardinals recovered with six straight points and drew to within two at 38-36 on a CJ Wilson trey at the 13:09 mark. Bilski then began an 8-0 Huskies run with a jumper that also featured layups from White and freshman TeeAaron Powell off the bench. Powell's layup with 9:22 remaining in the contest gave the Huskies their first double digit lead of the evening at 46-36.
Bell found the bottom of the net from three-point land with just over seven minutes remaining, generating the largest lead of the evening for the Huskies at 53-41. Saginaw Valley State made things interesting late though by battling back to within three points twice in the final three minutes.
Hoskins Jr., connected on a fade away jumper to make it 56-53 with 2:08 to play, but then the defenses for both sides came up with stops until the final minute. White connected on a clutch jumper with 30 seconds left for Tech to push the gap out to a two possession spread once again at 58-53. The Huskies then took care of business at the free throw line with three makes by Heath in the remaining seconds to seal the win.
Heath and White paced the Huskies in the points column with 11 apiece in Thursday night's win at Saginaw Valley State. Bilski followed with eight points while Bell, Appleby, and Powell ended the evening with seven points apiece. In total, nine different Huskies had points in an all-around team victory. Freshman Kyle Clow grabbed a team best 10 rebounds while Appleby hauled down seven boards and dished out four assists.
As a team, the Huskies were on target with 24 of 58 shots from the field (41.4%), tossed in 5 of 17 attempts from three-point range (29.4%), and converted 8 of 10 opportunities at the charity stripe (80.0%). Tech had the edge in rebounding 40-37 and scored 32 of their 61 points in the paint. The Huskies bench out produced the Cardinals reserves 22-8.
James Toohey guided the Cardinals' offense with a game high 18 points followed by Belyeu with 10 points. John Jr. chipped in eight points and secured 11 rebounds while Elijah Pughsley added five points and a team best four assists. The Cardinals had only 21 successful shots out of 58 attempts from the field (36.2%), were 5 of 16 from three-point range (31.3%), and 9 of 18 on looks at the free throw line (50.0%).
The Huskies are back in action Saturday afternoon when they travel to Northwood University for their second GLIAC game of the year. The tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m.