HOUGHTON, Mich. – The Michigan Tech men's basketball team wrapped up the 2018-19 season Thursday night, falling to Northern Michigan 74-53 in a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference contest at the SDC Gym. The Huskies took an early lead, but were unable to stay with the Wildcats who ended up building a 41-27 advantage at the half and then prevented Tech from mounting a second half charge.
"It was a rivalry game and Northern Michigan played better than we did tonight," Michigan Tech Head Coach Kevin Luke said. "They are a good club, but it's a disappointing loss because they're our rival and it was our last game. Once again though, our players didn't quit and battled all the way to the end. We are going to watch the film tomorrow and we'll see that we did some good things in this game, which we'll need to build on. We have a foundation going into the offseason and we are excited to continue to work on building our program.
"Our results aren't what we wanted them to be as far as wins and losses, but we got better as a team. The contributions that our seniors Bryan Heath, KC Borseth, and Sean Clarey made for our program this season will show up in the years to come. The efforts this year from these three players this will factor in to our success next year."
Michigan Tech (11-16, 6-14 GLIAC) powered out to a quick start thanks to buckets from sophomore Isaac Appleby and sophomore Trent Bell in the first two minutes of the game. Appleby sprinted to the basket for a layup when the ball was directed his way off the opening tip. Bell then rebounded a Northern Michigan (16-11, 11-9 GLIAC) missed shot and made his way into the paint to give the Huskies a 4-0 edge with 18:41 on the clock.
The Wildcats countered with back to back field goals courtesy of Troy Summers to knot the contest at 4-4. Tech responded with a layup from freshman Owen White followed by two more points in the lane by Appleby. He setup his own shot on the defensive end of the floor with a steal and the resulting basket made it an 8-4 score with 16:40 remaining in the first half.
Unfortunately, the Wildcats began to turn the tide in their favor over the next three minutes with an 11-0 run. Summers opened it with two free throws and then Naba Echols tied the game at 8-8 on a jumper at the 15:41 mark. Echols put NMU on top for the first time at 11-8 with a triple and then with 13:10 to go until the break, Alec Fruin capped the scoring burst with a mid-range jumper. Fruin's basket extended the Wildcats lead to 15-8.
The Huskies remained within single digits until Isaiah Johnson cashed in a free throw to make it 25-15 at the 8:16 mark of the opening half. Northern Michigan went up by as many as 16 points in the first when Sam Taylor connected on a triple to make it 37-21 with four minutes on the clock. The Huskies made up a little ground when Appleby answered with a three-point basket and then Bell tossed in two free throws right before the break to slice the deficit to 41-27.
The Huskies were unable to make up any more ground during the final 20 minutes of Thursday's battle. The Wildcats continued to stretch their advantage throughout the second period and Tech could get no closer than 14 points the rest of the night. Northern Michigan created the largest lead of the evening at 74-51 on a Taylor free throw with 1:09 left. Freshman Jake Witt collected the final two points of the night for the Huskies at the charity stripe with 21 seconds to go, resulting in the 74-53 final.
Witt led the Huskies attack by matching a season high 14 points, a threshold he had reached two other times previously coming into Thursday's game. Witt also hauled down a team high eight rebounds against the Wildcats in the season finale. Bell followed Witt with 10 points while senior Bryan Heath finished the night with nine points. Heath poured in 1,443 points during his career at Tech, ranking him 15th on the program's all-time scoring list. Appleby and junior Ryan Schuller each chipped in seven points with Appleby dealing out a team high three assists.
As a team, the Huskies found the target on 19 of 55 shots from the field (34.5%), were 3 of 15 from three-point range (20.0%), and 12 of 14 at the free throw line (85.7%). The Huskies recorded 30 of their points in the paint with 21 points being generated by reserve players.
The Wildcats had four players in double figures, paced by Echols with a game high 20 points. Johnson followed with 15 points and shared the team lead in rebounds with Myles Howard as each player reeled in seven. Taylor chipped in 13 points and Summers rounded out the double digit scorers Thursday night with 12 points. Howard also produced eight points and six blocked shots to go with his seven boards. In terms of team stats, the Wildcats were on the mark with 28 of 60 shots from the field (46.7%), 5 of 15 from long distance (33.3%), and 13 for 16 at the free throw line (81.3%).
The Huskies move into the offseason and will begin preparations for the 2019-20 season which starts in November.