ASHLAND, Ohio – The Michigan Tech men's basketball team suffered a 67-44 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference setback at No. 10 Ashland University Thursday night. The Huskies kept things close for the majority of the first half, but the Eagles' offense caught fire in the final eight minutes of the opening period while the defense shutdown Tech's attack to create a deficit the Huskies were unable to overcome.
"We had a really tough time slowing down their inside game tonight," Michigan Tech Head Coach Kevin Luke said. "Ashland continued to pound the ball inside all night long and collectively we need to do a better job of shutting that down defensively. Credit to Ashland, because they are a great club and did a good job of speeding us up and getting us out of rhythm on the offensive end of the floor.
"Our guys never quit and competed to the end tonight and it's important that we learn from this game and keep moving forward. We'll look to bounce back and get ready to face another very physical and athletic Wayne State team on Saturday. We have to be prepared to play our game and do things the Tech way in order to have a successful outcome."
Michigan Tech (7-5, 2-3 GLIAC) faced a 7-0 gap nearly four minutes into Thursday night's game. Rodrick Caldwell gave Ashland (12-0, 5-0 GLIAC) points six and seven at the free throw line with 16:34 showing on the first half clock. The Huskies broke through for their first points at the free throw line when sophomore Trent Bell converted a pair of opportunities to make it a 7-2 score.
Sophomore Dawson Bilski then cut to the basket for a layup to draw Tech to within three points at 7-4. Derek Koch boosted the Eagles advantage out to 9-4 a few seconds later, but Bilski struck again for the Huskies, dialing in a triple with just over 15 minutes to play until the break. Freshman Owen White followed suite with a trey of his own and suddenly the Huskies found themselves with a 10-9 edge at the 14:24 mark of the opening period.
The Eagles slipped back in front momentarily 11-10 on a layup courtesy of Phil Frentsos, but then Bilski connected on a mid-range jumper to give Tech the advantage again at 12-11. Unfortunately, the lead was short lived due to a 4-0 scoring run by Ashland, resulting in a 15-12 edge for the Eagles with 12:41 remaining on the clock. Freshman Kyle Clow brought the Huskies to within one again at 15-14 on a mid-range jumper, but an 8-0 scoring burst by Ashland culminated on a Ben Haraway triple and a 23-14 score with 10:37 remaining in the half.
Freshman TeeAaron Powell and Bilski then combined for five Tech points to chop the gap back down to four points at 23-19 with just over eight minutes to go in the first. However, those would be the final points for the Huskies in the opening 20 minutes of Thursday's game. Ashland recorded the last 18 points of the half to open up a 41-19 advantage when the buzzer sounded signaling the close of the first period.
The Eagles prevented Tech from gaining any momentum at the start of the second period by pouring in the first five points to go up 46-19. Freshman Jake Witt notched a free throw for the Huskies at the 17:38 mark and then senior Bryan Heath and Bilski collected five points to make it a 46-25 score with 16:15 to play. Bilski then sank a three-pointer with 14:07 left in the second, drawing the Huskies to within 19 points at 49-30. Unfortunately, that's as close as Tech would get the rest of the way.
Bilski paced the Huskies' offense with 15 points by firing in 6 of 12 shots from the field Thursday night. Bilski also contributed two rebounds, two assists, and one steal. White followed with seven points, Powell had six points, and Bell ended the night with five points and a team high 10 rebounds. Sophomore Isaac Appleby distributed three assists and blocked a trio of Ashland shots. As a team, the Huskies made 16 of 52 shots from the floor (30.8%), were 5 of 14 from three-point range (35.7%), and 7 of 8 at the free throw line (87.5%).
The Eagles had four players in double figures, led by Drew Noble with 19 points and six rebounds. Ben Haraway followed with 14 points and four steals, Caldwell tossed in 13 points, and Derek Koch chipped in 12 points. Aaron Thompson only had four points, but contributed a game high 11 rebounds and blocked two shots. The Eagles found success on 25 of 59 shot attempts from the field (42.4%), were 3 of 10 from long distance (30.0%), and 14 of 16 at the free throw line (87.5%). Ashland out-rebounded Tech 41-30 and had 38 points in the paint.
The Huskies will look to regroup on Saturday when they travel to Wayne State University for a GLIAC showdown in Detroit. The tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m. eastern time.