SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – The Michigan Tech men's basketball team claimed a key 74-71 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference win on the road Thursday night at Lake Superior State University. It was a back and forth battle for much of the night with the Huskies holding a 33-31 lead the break. Tech never trailed in the second half, but withstood a late charge by the Lakers to secure the win.
"The key to getting the win tonight was that we played the Michigan Tech way," Head Coach Kevin Luke said. "I thought we showed a lot of poise, played really well, and executed at a high level defensively. Credit to our players for turning in a great performance on the road in a tough place to play. We hit some big shots down the stretch and withstood Lake Superior State's run at the end of the game. We ran four different defenses tonight which helped take them out of rhythm a bit on offense. Credit to our guys for knowing those different methods and executing them pretty well.
"We'll enjoy this win for a moment tonight and then focus in on preparing for Ferris State Saturday. They are a tough team and will come at us with pressure, which we'll need to be able to handle. If we play with poise, we are going to be ok because their tempo and our tempo clash. So, if we can get the tempo to our style and take care of the basketball we'll give ourselves a chance at another win Saturday."
Lake Superior State (13-9, 9-7 GLIAC) got the upper hand early when Rog Stein broke through for the first two points of the night on layup with 18:24 left in the first half. Michigan Tech (11-12, 6-10 GLIAC) countered with a layup courtesy of freshman Owen White to knot the score at 2-2 on the ensuing possession. The Lakers then produced the next five points to go up 7-2 on a Tim Cairnduff triple at the 17:04 mark in the opening frame.
The Huskies didn't let the Lakers pull away and stayed within one to two possessions during the next few minutes. Trailing 13-9 with just over 12 minutes remaining until the break, freshman Jake Witt sparked the offense with a layup followed by a jumper from sophomore Isaac Appleby to deadlock the score at 13-13. Senior Bryan Heath then gave the Huskies their first lead of the evening on back to back two-point field goals. He is second found the bottom of the net with 9:55 on the clock, making it a 17-13 score.
The Lakers then bounced back with a 6-0 scoring run to recapture the edge at 19-17 on a Tim Cairnduff layup with 7:45 remaining until the intermission. The two sides traded point for point until the end of the half, resulting in eight ties and five lead changes. Tech engineered a four-point lead at 33-29 on an Appleby trey with 30 seconds on the first half clock, but Cairnduff fired in a fade away jumper for Lake Superior State right before the horn, slicing Tech's lead to 33-31 going into the locker room at halftime.
The Huskies answered the bell straight away to begin the second half, converting on a pair of field goals to construct a 38-31 cushion. Heath lined up a triple on the opening possession followed by a layup from Appleby. The Huskies lead stayed intact until Malek Adams evened things out again at 52-52 on a layup with 10:53 to play.
However, the game wouldn't stay tied for long as Tech quickly powered back in front on a mid-range jumper by sophomore Dawson Bilski. The Bilski basket ignited a 12-0 scoring burst for Tech which established a 64-52 separation with 8:19 to go in the game. Bilski ended up capping the run with a trey and was the producer of seven of the 12 points in the stretch.
The Lakers tightened things up again with three minutes to go in the contest when Adams drew Lake Superior State to within two points at 69-67 on a layup. The two sides traded free throws before Appleby filled up a three-point basket with 2:31 left in the second to push the score back out to two possessions at 73-68. Tech's defense then stood its ground in the final minutes, allowing just two points the rest of the night.
Following a successful free throw by Heath, Lake Superior State had one more chance to tie the score down 74-71 with under 10 seconds remaining. Blake Marquardt could not find the range on his triple try and the rebound went to the Huskies with 0.9 seconds showing on the clock. Tech ran out the clock from there to secure the 74-71 win.
Heath guided the Huskies with 18 points, connecting on 7 of 13 shot attempts from the field. He also hauled down four rebounds and produced three steals on the defensive end of the floor. Witt matched a season high with 14 points, five rebounds, and three blocked shots while Bilski contributed 13 points and a team high four assists in the victory. Appleby rounded out the double digit scorers with 12 points, going 5 for 7 from the floor. Sophomore Trent Bell reeled in a team high seven rebounds and chipped in eight points on offense.
In terms of team stats, the Huskies found the target on 25 of 50 shots from the field (50.0%), were 8 for 18 from three-point range (44.4%), and 16 of 19 at the charity stripe (84.2%). Tech out-rebounded Lake Superior State 28-26, scored 15 points off of 14 Laker turnovers, and had 28 points in the paint.
Stein had a game high 20 points for the Lakers followed by Adams with 18 points and Cairnduff with 13 points. Stein was the top rebounder with seven boards and Cairnduff issued a team best four assists. Lake Superior State closed the night making 27 of 58 shots from the field (46.6%), were 2 of 15 from behind the arc (13.3%), and 15 of 24 at the free throw line (62.5%).
The Huskies will be back in action Saturday afternoon when they travel to Ferris State for their second GLIAC showdown of the season against the Bulldogs. Ferris State notched a 78-67 win at home over Northern Michigan Thursday night. Saturday's tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m. eastern time.