Big second half gives MTU Men win over Pride

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HAMMOND, In. The Michigan Tech men's basketball team rallied for a 75-67 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference win Thursday night at Purdue Northwest. The Huskies trailed 41-23 at the beginning of the second half, but kept battling and took a 69-67 lead with 51 seconds left before closing out the win at the free throw line.

"Credit goes to our players for hanging in there and rallying for a key victory tonight," Michigan Tech Head Coach Kevin Luke said. "Credit Purdue Northwest because they played hard and had us down and out. Isaac [Appleby], Bryan [Heath], and Dawson [Bilski] played all 20 minutes of the second half, hit some key shots, and made big plays defensively to help bring us back. We also did a great job taking care of the basketball in second half and defended really well overall.

"Everyone was a little down at halftime and during the break we talked about playing hard and doing things the Michigan Tech way. Our guys took it to heart and now we have to carry this momentum forward into Saturday when we face a tough Parkside club."

Purdue Northwest (6-14, 2-10 GLIAC) jumped out in front with the first basket of the night via a layup by Durante Lee 30 seconds into the game. Michigan Tech (10-9, 5-7 GLIAC) took the lead at 6-4 a couple of minutes later when sophomore Trent Bell floated in a jumper with 17:49 left on the first half clock. The Pride countered with five straight points to take the lead at 9-6. Anthony Barnard tied it up at 6-6 and then Chandler Spring dialed in a trey to put the Pride on top.

From there the Huskies would play catchup until that final minute of the second half. Purdue Northwest extended the gap to 19-9 on a Barnard layup with just over 11 minutes to play in the opening period before opening up a 15-point advantage at 31-16 on a Durante Lee field goal with 5:04 to play until the intermission. The Huskies sliced the deficit down to 34-23 on a pair of free throws by sophomore Dawson Bilski at the 1:08 mark, but two successful tries at the charity stripe for Chase Rankin boosted the Pride's lead to 13 again at the break 36-23.

Things continued to go Purdue Northwest's way at the outset of the second half. Timothy Gilmore sighted in a triple 10 seconds into the final stanza followed by another Barnard layup to make it a 41-23 lead with one minute gone by in the second. Bilski put the Huskies on the board for the first time in the second half on a drive to the basket at the 17:42 mark. Tech then settled in and didn't let the game get away, enabling the late comeback bid.

Momentum began to change when senior Bryan Heath filled up back to back triples to draw the Huskies to within seven points at 47-40 with 13:25 remaining in the second half. With just under 11 minutes to go, senior KC Borseth closed the gap to five points at 51-46 at the free throw line. However, the Pride managed to hit some key shots of their own on the way to reconstructing a 58-47 lead following a Brennon Palmer triple with 8:58 to play.

Lee bumped the separation to 13 points at 66-53 for Purdue Northwest, finding the bottom of the net on a layup with 5:17 remaining. A Pride technical foul then setup what would be a five-point possession for the Huskies. Heath fired in two free throws and then Bilski connected from downtown on a triple which suddenly put Tech right back into contention at 66-58.

Freshman Owen White continued the scoring burst for the Huskies with a layup, sophomore Isaac Appleby converted two free throws, and Bell worked his way inside for a layup to make it 66-64 with 2:25 left. Richard Robertson then scored what would prove to be the final point of the night for the Pride at the free throw line on the ensuing possession at the 2:06 mark.

Just over a minute later, Bilski tied the game at 67-67 on a trey and stole the ball on the inbounds play which setup the go ahead basket by Heath with 51 seconds left. Appleby then produced one of his five steals in the contest, leading to two more free throws which extended Tech's lead to 71-67. The Huskies defense came up with two more stops and Bell along with Heath combined for four free throws in the final seconds to seal the 75-67 victory.

Five Michigan Tech players had 11 or more points in Thursday night's win, led by Heath with 17 points. Bilski followed with 15 points and a team high six rebounds while Appleby sent in 14 points, dished out four assists, and had four steals on the defensive end of the floor. Bell chipped in 12 points and White rounded out the double digit scorers with 11 points.

The Huskies wrapped up the game making 23 of 62 shots from the field (37.1%), were 11 for 29 from three-point range (37.9%), and 18 of 23 at the free throw line (78.3%). Tech out-rebounded Purdue Northwest 36-33 and forced 21 Pride turnovers leading to 22 points. The Huskies also grabbed 17 offensive rebounds which resulted in 16 second chance points.

Spring had a game high 18 points off the bench for the Pride followed by Lee with 12 points and five rebounds. Barnard added 11 points and shared the team lead in rebounds with five. Purdue Northwest found the target on 23 of 46 shots from the field (50.0%), were 8 of 18 from long distance (44.4%), and 13 of 19 at the free throw line (68.4%).

The Huskies are back on the floor Saturday afternoon when they travel to Parkside for another GLIAC showdown to wrap-up the road trip. The Rangers defeated Northern Michigan 71-65 in overtime Thursday night. Saturday's tip-off is slated for 4 p.m. eastern time.

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