LEBANON, Ill. – The Michigan Tech men's basketball team battled back for a 78-73 non-conference win at McKendree University Saturday night in the GLIAC/GLVC Crossover Tournament. The Huskies trailed 35-27 at the break before outpacing the Bearcats 51-38 in the second half to secure the victory on opening day of the 2019-20 season.
"We had a slow start to the game and McKendree played well in the first half, but I thought we played a much better second half to get a solid win to start the season," Michigan Tech Head Coach Kevin Luke said. "We settled in during the final 20 minutes and executed our systems both offensively and defensively much more effectively. We struggled a bit to find a rhythm in the first half, but I was pleased with our effort to get back on track and play the Michigan Tech way. We'll now get ready to face Lewis tomorrow afternoon in what will be another tough game against a good team."
Michigan Tech (1-0) and McKendree (0-1) battled back and forth through the opening minutes of Saturday's game with neither side establishing more than a one possession lead early on. Junior Dawson Bilski got the Huskies on the board first when he connected on a mid-range jumper in the first minute of the first half to make it 2-0.
With the game tied at 8-8 with 14:17 left in the first half, senior Tommy Lucca dialed in a triple to give the Huskies an 11-8 edge. Lucca then found the bottom of the net again from long distance at the 12:41 mark, establishing a 14-8 advantage for the Huskies at that juncture of the contest.
Unfortunately, Tech's offense slowed down a bit over the next four minutes and McKendree was able to slip in front for the first time at 19-18 on a Logan Kohrmann jumper with 8:11 on the clock. The Huskies quickly countered with Lucca who knocked down a mid-range jumper to push the Huskies back on top again at 20-19 on the ensuing possession.
However, the lead didn't stay intact for long and the Bearcats were able to get things rolling on the offensive end of the floor. McKendree engineered an 11-0 scoring run and established a 10-point advantage at 30-20 with just under four minutes to go in the first half on a triple courtesy of Oliver Stephen. The bearcast eventually setup a 35-27 lead going into the locker room at halftime.
The Huskies continued to trail by double digits at 49-39 as the second half clock ticked down to under 12 minutes remaining in Saturday's contest. Sophomore Owen White began to turn the tide in Tech's favor when he found the target from three-point range to make it 49-42. Bilski followed suite with a trey of his own and suddenly the Huskies were back to within four points of the Bearcats at 49-45 with exactly 11 minutes remaining in the game.
McKendree continued to maintain an edge though until senior Kyle Monroe sent the Huskies back in front 64-63 on a layup with 4:53 showing on the second half clock. Monroe was also fouled on the play and proceeded to sink the bonus free throw. From that point forward, the Huskies kept the advantage on their side of the scoreboard. Monroe along with junior Isaac Appleby, White, and Bilski all contributed key free throws and field goals to keep McKendree at arm's length in the final five minutes to preserve the win.
Monroe led all players in Saturday night's game with 29 points, sinking 9 of 18 shots from the field while converting on 11 of 13 chances at the free throw line. He also hauled down a team high nine rebounds and came up with three steals on the defensive end of the floor. Lucca followed with 18 points while dishing out four assists and contributing five rebounds of his own. Bilski rounded out the double-digit scorers with 14 points while White was successful on 3 of 4 shots from the field, resulting in eight points on the stat sheet.
As a team, the Huskies made 26 of 60 shots from the field (43.3%), were 10 for 23 from three-point range (43.5%), and 16 of 19 at the free throw line (84.2%). Tech had a slight 31-28 edge in rebounding and forced 19 McKendree turnovers which led to 24 Tech points. The Huskies also had 10 second chance points courtesy of 10 offensive rebounds.
Stephen had a team high 19 points for the Wildcats followed by Aleksa Popovic with 15 points Saturday night. Kohrmann fired in 12 points and Bryson Bultman was the fourth Wildcat player to reach the double-digit threshold with 10 points. Stephen and Popovic each reeled in a team high six rebounds while Bultman distributed three assists. As a team, the Bearcats made 28 of 50 shots from the field (56.0%), were successful on 8 of 19 triple tries (42.1%), and converted 9 of 13 opportunities at the free throw line (69.2%).
The Huskies are back on the court Sunday for game two of the GLIAC/GLVC Crossover Tournament hosted by McKendree University. Tech will play Lewis University who lost to Northern Michigan on Saturday 76-63.
Sunday's tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m. eastern time.