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Sharp shooting first half powers Tech Men past NMU

Courtesy: Michigan Tech
(WLUC)
Published: Feb. 17, 2021 at 12:20 AM EST
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HOUGHTON, Mich. (WLUC) - Owen White had 22 points and Carter Johnston distributed 10 assists to fuel Michigan Tech to a 73-51 win over Northern Michigan at SDC Gymnasium Tuesday night, marking a sweep in the season series. White impressed on both ends of the floor and the Huskies led by a season high 29 points at halftime and held on in the second half. Tech (9-5) remained in first place in a tight GLIAC North Division with four games to play in the regular season. The Wildcats (6-8) fell four spots to sixth place in the standings with the loss.

“Priority number one was to bounce back and play Michigan Tech basketball the way we know how,” said head coach Kevin Luke. “We did that in nice fashion today. I felt we were in good defensive position. We rebounded well in the first half. We shared the basketball, penetrated, and kicked it to the outside. That’s what we needed to do to be successful.”

Johnston dished eight of his 10 assists in the first half to help Michigan Tech to a 40-29 advantage at the break with zero turnovers. Meanwhile, White solidly held NMU scorer Dolapo Olayinka to just eight points on 11 tries in the paint. On offense, White notched his sixth game of 20 or more points and efficiently shot 9-for-14, including 4-for-7 from long range. The Huskies finished 28-for-58 (48.3-percent) from the floor and downed 15 of 35 (42.9-percent) of their 3-point attempts. Eric Carl made 3 of 5 from beyond the arc and posted 13 points, while Trent Bell nearly made it to double-double territory with 10 points, eight rebounds, and one steal.

“Whenever Eric Carl shoots well, it gives us the opportunity to get a little bit of separation against our opponents,” Luke said. “Dawson Bilski didn’t score as much as he normally does, but he was out there defending and making good things happen and those are the kind of things that help you win games. It was also nice to see Trent Bell shoot the ball well for us tonight.”

Northern Michigan pushed back in the first five minutes of the second half, but Carl snuffed out any chance of a comeback at the halfway mark with a 3-point jumper to go ahead 59-35. The Huskies extended their bench the rest of game and several underclassmen chipped in meaningful minutes including Adam Hobson (eight points, 14 minutes), Matt Ojala, Brad Simonsen, and Pete Calcaterra, who scored his first two points in an MTU uniform.

“The young kids are getting better every minute that they play and it was really a good second half,” Luke said. “We knew we needed to be careful with that big of an advantage going into halftime. We got a little loose at times, but then we settled down and got our feet back underneath us. I think it was a great effort after a tough weekend against Davenport. Hopefully we can carry that into the Grand Valley State series.”

Northern Michigan shot 31.3-percent (15-for-48) overall and 28.6-percent (4-for-14) from beyond the arc. Justin Kuehl came off the bench to lead the Wildcats with 10 points. Olayinka had seven rebounds, two steals, and a block but shot just 3 of 13. Michigan Tech won the rebound category 38-38 and each team turned over the basketball 13 times.

The Huskies (9-5) stay in Houghton to play Grand Valley State in a two-game set Friday and Saturday at 12 p.m. and 11 a.m. respectively at SDC Gymnasium. They will travel to Wisconsin-Parkside the following week to close out the regular season. The GLIAC tournament format includes all 12 conference teams with the top-four seeds earning a bye in the first round beginning March 2. Northern Michigan (6-8) hosts Davenport for two games starting Saturday.

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