HOUGHTON, Mich. – The Michigan Tech men's basketball team closed the 2018 calendar year with an impressive 69-50 non-conference victory over Winona State University Wednesday night in the SDC Gym. The Huskies won for the third straight time and have posted wins in six of their last eight contests.
"I thought we executed our game plan really well tonight," Michigan Tech Head Coach Kevin Luke said. "Winona State is very well coached, they can shoot, they can defend, and they do it all really well. Our execution offensively and defensively, especially in the first half, gave us a chance to be there. In the second half, I thought we continued to defend fairly well and I'm proud of our guys for being able to finish it off. It's been awhile since we've been able to get a win in the final game before the Christmas Break. I'm happy for our players and it was a good gift going into the break.
"With all of the adversity we've had, I'm just really proud of how this team has responded. The players have come to work and get better and both of those things have been accomplished. The players need a break and it's good to be going into it on a high note. Once we get back into conference play, it's going to be difficult going on the road to play nationally ranked Ashland. It will be a great challenge, but I'm looking forward to it and excited to see our guys compete against one of the top teams in the country."
Winona State (5-6) opened up a 6-2 lead just over a minute into the first half Wednesday night with Devin Whitelow, Caleb Wagner, and Kevion Taylor collecting the points on field goal attempts. Michigan Tech (7-4) senior Bryan Heath was responsible for the Huskies first two points, sandwiching in a layup at the 19:22 mark of the first half.
Sophomore Isaac Appleby would then put the Huskies on top for the first time with just over 16 minutes to go until the break. Appleby sliced the deficit to 6-5 on a triple and then found the mark on a mid-range jump shot to make it a 7-6 score in favor Tech. Whitelow quickly answered for the Warriors with a two-point field goal on the ensuing possession, setting in motion a sequence of traded baskets between the two clubs.
With the score knotted at 17-17 near the eight-minute mark of the first half, the Huskies were able to slip in front and stay there for the duration of the night. Sophomore Dawson Bilski, the reigning Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference North Division Player of the Week, pushed Tech in front with one of his five triples on the evening. Bilski then followed that up with a mid-range jumper, extending the lead to 22-17 with 7:36 to play until the break.
Luke Martens brought the Warriors back to within two points at 22-20 on a three-point strike with 6:47 on the clock, but the Huskies would close the half strong on a 12-1 run to create some separation going into the locker room. Heath dialed in a three-point bucket followed by a layup from sophomore Trent Bell and a two-point jumper courtesy of Bilski. Bell and Bilski then teamed up to produce the final five points of the half as well. Winona State's lone tally in the final stretch of the opening half was a free throw by Alec Rosner.
Leading 34-21 going into the second half, the Huskies didn't waste any time putting more distance between themselves and the Warriors. Freshman Owen White fired in a jumper 30 seconds into the action and drew contact in the process. White completed a conventional three-point play with a made free throw and the Huskies were off and rolling.
The gap just continued to expand from there as the Huskies eventually enjoyed their largest lead of the night at 56-32 with just under 12 minutes to go in the second period. Heath did the honors when he connected from downtown, one of two triples for Heath on the night. The Warriors would get no closer than 15 points the rest of the way.
Bilski powered the Huskies' offense for the second game in a row, firing in 22 points in Wednesday's victory. Bilski made 8 of 12 shots from the field and drilled 5 of 6 attempts from three-point range. He also hauled down five rebounds and came up with a blocked shot. Bilski came into contest after having notched a career high 25 points Saturday in the win over UW-Stout.
Heath followed Bilski with 14 points and eight rebounds, Appleby tossed in 10 points, grabbed four rebounds and blocked two shots, and Bell nearly had a double-double thanks to 11 rebounds and eight points. Freshman Jake Witt had another solid outing on the glass by way of 10 rebounds in the win over Winona State. He also had two of Tech's seven blocked shots.
As a team, the Huskies found success on 24 of 59 shots from the field (40.7%), dialed in 8 of 20 looks from three-point range (40.0%), and converted 13 of 16 chances at the free throw line (81.3%). Tech enjoyed a sizable 49-30 advantage in rebounding, scored 24 points in the paint, and had eight second chance points.
Whitelow was the only Winona State player to reach double figures in scoring with 13 points. Nick Klug had nine points off the bench and Taylor wrapped up the contest with eight points. Rosner was limited to three points, but led the team with five rebounds. The Warriors found the target on just 18 of 60 shots from the floor (30.0%), were 9 for 28 from long distance (32.1%), and 5 of 7 at the free throw line (71.4%).
The Huskies are back on the court following the Holiday break when they travel to Ashland University for a GLIAC matchup Thursday January 3rd. The Eagles are ranked 16th in the most recent NABC Top 25 Coaches' Poll. The tip-off is slated for 7:30 p.m. eastern time.