18 triples enable Huskies to power past Wildcats

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MARQUETTE, Mi. The Michigan Tech men's basketball team closed out the regular season with an impressive 91-61 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference win at rival Northern Michigan Thursday night. The Huskies caught fire on offense with 18 triples and the defense locked down the Wildcats offense, holding them to a 33.9 percent shooting performance from the field.

"We knew they were not going to go away after our quick start and credit to our guys for responding when Northern Michigan made their run," Michigan Tech Head Coach Kevin Luke said. "We started out hot and then fell into a stretch where we didn't defend as well as we needed to. They were able to get to within two points early in the second half, but our guys were able to clamp down and finish it up. It is a really good feeling to put together a strong performance here on the road after a disappointing loss to them at home in December. Overall, it was a great team win, we shot the ball well, and defended hard."

Michigan Tech (20-8, 14-6 GLIAC) set the tone early with four three-point buckets to open the contest. Junior Trent Bell delivered the first trey 45 seconds into the action followed by junior Dawson Bilski, Bell again, and then senior Kyle Monroe to make it a 12-2 score with 16:28 to play in the first half. Ben Wolf had the only two points in that stretch for Northern Michigan (12-16, 9-11 GLIAC), sinking two shots at the free throw line.

The Huskies then opened up a 14-2 advantage thanks to a layup by sophomore Owen White before increasing the gap to 17 points at 25-8. Monroe did the honors with another trey at the 13:14 mark of the first half. The Wildcats then put together a 12-2 scoring run to close the gap to 27-20 on a conventional three-point play by Alec Fruin with 9:32 left until the break.

The two sides traded points on ensuing possessions until Bilski and Monroe dialed in back-to-back buckets from long range to boost the lead out to double digits again at 35-22 with just over seven minutes left. Northern Michigan didn't go away and climbed back to within six points at 41-35 on a Fruin three-point basket. Monroe answered with a two-point field goal with just over a minute showing on the first half clock, giving the Huskies a 43-35 advantage at the intermission.

The Wildcats made up more ground in the first three minutes of the second half. Following a triple by Sam Taylor, it was suddenly just a two-point game in favor of Tech at 45-43 with 17:03 to go. The Huskies then countered with seven consecutive points to stretch the lead back to nine at 52-43. Sophomore Owen White cashed in a layup followed by a steal from junior Isaac Appleby and subsequent breakaway bucket. Monroe then capped the burst with another triple with 14:49 to play in the contest.

Still leading 52-46 with 14:15 remaining in the second half, the Huskies shifted the momentum completely in their favor with a 14-0 run over the next five minutes. Appleby got it rolling with a layup and the shots kept falling while the defense logged multiple stops. White fired in a three-point basket with just over nine minutes to go to make it a 66-46 advantage in favor of the Huskies. Tech opened up their largest lead of the night at the 2:16 mark of the second half at 87-56 on a triple by White. Freshman Devin Schmitz hoisted in the final bucket of the evening, hitting an open three-pointer from the corner which resulted in the 91-61 final score.

Monroe led all scorers Thursday night with 32 points, connecting on 11 of 20 shots from the field, including 6 of 8 from behind the three-point arc. Monroe also collected seven rebounds, dished out three assists, had two steals, and two blocked shots for the Huskies. Bilski followed Monroe with 16 points, White tossed in 14 points, and Appleby rounded out the double-digit scorers with 11 points while adding six rebounds and four assists. Bell closed the night with nine points, six rebounds, and four assists as well.

As a team, the Huskies connected on 34 of 55 shots from the field (61.8%), were 18 of 20 from three-point range (90.0%), and 5 for 8 at the free throw line (62.5%). Rebounds were even at 32-32, Tech combined for 19 assists, and had 22 points in the paint. Tech's 18 three-point baskets Thursday night were just two shy of the school record of 20, set against Oakland on February 9, 1995.

Fruin guided Northern Michigan with 12 points trailed by Taylor and Ben Wolf with 11 points apiece. Taylor along with Dolapo Olayinka wrapped up the night with a team high eight rebounds, with Taylor dishing out four assists. The Wildcats made just 21 of 62 shots from the field (33.9%), were 9 for 25 from three-point range (36.0%), and 10 of 11 at the free throw line (90.9%).

The Huskies open the GLIAC Tournament on Tuesday with a quarterfinal game against Saginaw Valley State in the SDC Gym. Tech is the No. 3 seed while the Cardinals head into the postseason as the No. 6 seed. The tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. eastern time.

Northern Michigan will visit top seeded Ferris State next Tuesday in another GLIAC Quarterfinal.