MTU men's basketball outlast Purdue Northwest

HOUGHTON, Mich. (WLUC) - The Michigan Tech men's basketball team held on for a key 82-72 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference win Thursday night against Purdue Northwest in the SDC Gym. The game featured five ties and eight lead changes, but the Huskies were able to pull away late to lock down the victory over the Pride.

"Credit goes to Purdue Northwest for really making us work tonight in what was a really good GLIAC basketball game," Michigan Tech Head Coach Kevin Luke said. "We were able to grind it out and I thought we played much more aggressive in the second half. We were getting the ball from side to side and executing more efficiently on offense. Dawson [Bilski] put us on his shoulders in the last six minutes or so by hitting some big shots and getting us over the hump. Defensively, I thought we did a solid job shutting them down in the last five minutes. We were able to get some stops and some huge rebounds.

"We now have to build on this win tonight going into Saturday against a tough Parkside team. They handled us pretty well earlier in the season at their place and they are going to make us work for everything we get. We have to be prepared mentally for that. When our guys execute well and play aggressive, we are a fun team to watch and a tough team to beat."

Michigan Tech (15-7, 9-5 GLIAC) won the opening tip-off and immediately went on the attack against Purdue Northwest (7-16, 2-12 GLIAC). Junior Trent Bell sent home a triple off an assist by sophomore Owen White 19 seconds into the action. Jyrus Freel gave the Pride their first two points of the night on a layup to make it 3-2, but the next five points would belong to the Huskies. White dialed in a trey and then followed that up with a mid-range jumper to make it an 8-2 score with 17:33 to go in the first half.

Purdue Northwest closed the gap back down to two-points at 8-6 on a layup from Xavier Allison with 16:15 showing on the clock, but the Huskies would record seven of the next nine points to lead 15-8 with 14:06 to play until the intermission. White collected four of the points while junior Dawson Bilski dropped in the final three on a conventional three-point play to give the Huskies their largest lead at the juncture of the contest.

The Huskies remained in front until late in the half when the Pride slipped ahead for the first time at 28-27 on a triple by Chandler Spring with 3:59 on the clock. Fortunately, the Huskies quickly recaptured the advantage on a three-point bucket from White followed by a short jumper from Monroe and two more free throws from White, making it a 34-28 contest with 1:27 to go until the intermission. Freel posted the final two-points of the half, slicing Tech's cushion to 34-30 going into the locker room at halftime.

The Huskies commenced the second half with an 8-2 run to go up by double digits for the first time at 42-32 with just over 17 minutes to go in the ballgame. Bilski hoisted in another triple to create that separation. However, the Pride were able to regroup and powered back in front at 46-44 thanks to a 14-2 scoring burst during the next three plus minutes. Chandler Spring cashed in one of his five three-point baskets in the game with 13:40 on the second half clock.

The two sides then traded points until the later stages of Thursday's battle. With the score knotted up at 60-60 with just under five minutes left, the Huskies turned the tide in their favor. Senior Kyle Monroe converted two key free throws and then Bilski poured in eight consecutive points to build Tech's lead back to double-digits at 70-60 with 2:34 left in the contest. Tech's defense secured a couple of key rebounds and forced a turnover during that stretch to setup the offense for that run. The Pride would get no closer than seven points the rest of the way.

Bilski guided the Huskies with 26 points, five rebounds, and two assists Thursday night. White followed with 21 points and Monroe tacked on 17 points and eight rebounds to round out the double-digit scorers. Junior Isaac Appleby dropped in eight points and had a team high four assists while Bell chipped in five points and a game high nine rebounds.

The Huskies found success on 26 of 54 shots from the field (48.1%), were 12 of 28 on opportunities from behind the arc (42.9%), and had a solid night at the free throw line where they made good on 18 of 21 chances (85.7%). Tech out-rebounded Purdue Northwest 35-28, combined for 16 assists, and had nine second chance points.

Purdue Northwest was paced by Freel with 20 points and eight rebounds followed by Spring with 17 points and Gregory Boyle with 13 points off the bench. Allison picked up four points and dished out a game high eight assists for the Pride. Purdue Northwest closed the game making 28 of 57 shots from the field (49.1%), were 10 for 17 from long distance (58.8%), and 6 of 12 at the free throw line (50.0%).

The Huskies are back on the court Saturday when they host Parkside on Winter Carnival Weekend. The Rangers fell at Northern Michigan 55-43 in their Thursday night game to begin the week. Saturday's tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m. eastern time.