HOUGHTON, Mi. The Michigan Tech men's basketball team closed out the weekend with an impressive 76-63 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference win Saturday afternoon over Ashland University at the SDC Gym. The Huskies have now won eight of their last nine games and are tied for first in the GLIAC North Division standings with a conference record of 4-1.
"I'm extremely happy and proud of our team for getting this win today because Ashland is a very good basketball club," Michigan Tech Head Coach Kevin Luke said. "They have struggled a bit record wise recently, but have been ranked as high as No. 10 in the country and have some very talented players. I really liked the way we spread the wealth today on offense by making extra passes and looking to play inside out. We are a better defensive club this year and our guys are buying in to what we are looking to accomplish on that end of the floor. Good things happen when you defend hard, and if you do that, you are always going to give yourself a chance. We are starting to shoot the ball much better and when that is combined with solid defense, it makes it possible to string together multiple wins in a row.
"It was a great stretch for us here at home and now it's time to go back on the road. We will look to get some good practices in this week because it will be a huge test for us. Parkside and Purdue Northwest are both good teams that play hard. Anytime you go on the road you don't know what to expect and we have to go and play our best to beat them."
Senior Kyle Monroe put Michigan Tech (10-3, 4-1 GLIAC) on the board first when he filled up a triple which was setup by an Ashland (7-6, 0-5 GLIAC) turnover. The Eagles then countered with an 8-0 run, starting with a trey from Roderick Caldwell at the 19:17 mark. Aaron Thompson capped it with a tip-in to make it an 8-3 score in favor of Ashland with 17:11 to play in the opening half.
The Huskies generated the next five points on a jumper from Monroe followed by a three-point bucket by junior Tommy Lucca, knotting the score at 8-8. The contest would prove to be a back and forth battle throughout the majority of the first half. There ended up being five ties and four lead changes through the opening 20 minutes of Saturday's game.
Leading 29-28 with just over two minutes to play in the half, the Huskies were able to turn the tables on Ashland going down the stretch and into the intermission. Sophomore Owen White found the target from three-point land twice to kick start an 11-0 scoring burst by Tech to close out the first half. Junior Isaac Appleby cashed in a conventional three-point play thanks to a layup and free throw and then Monroe made it a 40-28 lead for Tech at the break with a pair of free throws.
The Huskies created more separation at the outset of the second half when Monroe and Lucca combined for five points, resulting in a 45-28 advantage with 18:08 to go in the game. Tech's lead eventually grew to 62-39 with just over 10 minutes showing on the clock. Appleby got to the rim for another layup, this time on the fast break, when Lucca reeled in a defensive rebound and found him with a pass down the floor for the two points.
The Huskies continued to maintain a 23-point lead at 73-50 with just over five minutes to go after a mid-range jumper by White found the bottom of the net. Ashland sliced into the gap by limiting the Huskies to only three points the rest of the way. However, the Huskies were able to contain the Eagles' offense and made the lead hold up until the final buzzer.
The Huskies had four players with 12 or more points Saturday, led by Monroe with a game high 24. Lucca followed with 15 points, a game high seven assists and three steals, White fired in 14 points and grabbed a team best six rebounds with three steals, and Appleby rounded out the double-digit scorers with 12 points and five rebounds. Junior Dawson Bilski tacked on eight points and had a pair of rebounds.
The Huskies finished the game with 30 successful field goals on 66 attempts (45.5%), dialed in 11 of 29 looks from behind the arc (37.9%), and were 5 of 7 at the free throw line (71.4%). Tech's defense forced 21 turnovers which led to 30 points on offense, had 26 points in the paint, and 13 second chances points due to 11 offensive rebounds.
Thompson guided the Eagles with 20 points and a game high 12 rebounds followed by Caldwell with 15 points. Drew Noble chipped in 14 points with 10 of those coming at the free throw line. Ashland made 18 of 42 shots from the floor (42.9%), went 8 for 16 from long distance (50.0%), and 19 for 24 at the free throw line (79.2%). The Eagles had a slight rebounding edge at 34-31 on Saturday.
The Huskies are on the road Thursday when they battle Parkside followed by a contest at Purdue Northwest Saturday. Thursday's tip-off is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. eastern time.