HOUGHTON, Mi. The Michigan Tech men's basketball team recorded a key Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference win Saturday afternoon, topping No. 21 Grand Valley State 78-70 on Senior Day at the SDC Gym. The Huskies built a double-digit lead in the second half and then held off a late charge by the Lakers to notch the victory.
"There was a ton of energy in the SDC Gym today and it was nice to see the community come out and support both of our teams," Michigan Tech Head Coach Kevin Luke said. "I was really happy because I felt like they saw some very good basketball today. I'm extremely proud of our players for how they hung in there and withstood some runs by Grand Valley State. Our players executed the game plan perfectly against a very good club. Our guys played really hard and were deserving of this win.
"Northern Michigan is our rival and they are playing to get into the GLIAC Tournament and we are playing for a lot as well. We are going on the road and it will be a good tough game because it is a rivalry game and a GLIAC game. They are not expecting us to roll over and we are not expecting them to roll over. We have won two in a row at home and three in a row overall so our guys are playing with a lot of confidence. It will be a tough game, but we are looking forward to the challenge."
Grand Valley State (21-6, 14-5 GLIAC) jumped out to the early lead with Jake Van Tubbergen, Christian Negron, and Jeremiah Ferguson combining for the first five points of the contest. Michigan Tech (19-8, 13-6 GLIAC) broke through for the first time when sophomore Owen White found the bottom of the net from three-point land to make it a 5-3 score with 17:29 on the first half clock. The Huskies then scored five of the games next seven points to go on top for the first time at 8-7 on a jumper from junior Dawson Bilski with 15:32 to play until the break.
The two sides then exchanged points back and forth over the next three possessions with the Lakers holding an 11-10 edge after a Van Tubbergon layup. Tech then engineered a 7-0 scoring run to recapture the advantage at 17-11. Senior Kyle Monroe got it rolling with a triple followed by a layup from junior Isaac Appleby. White then capped the burst thanks to a mid-range jumper that found the target with 11:50 to go in the first frame.
The Huskies opened up a seven-point lead at 20-13 on a trey from Monroe, but the Lakers rallied to grab a 27-25 edge on a Ferguson triple at the 4:46 mark of the first half. Marius Grazulis then made it a 29-25 score before the Huskies regrouped with six consecutive points to slip back in front 31-29. Monroe had four of the six points during that stretch, culminating with a pair of successful looks at the free throw line. Ferguson tied the game again at 31-31 with a jumper for Grand Valley State, but a layup and three-point basket sent the Huskies into the locker room with a 36-31 halftime lead.
Michigan Tech maintained the advantage, although the Lakers stayed on their heels in the early moments of the second half. The Huskies were finally able to create some separation when freshman Eric Carl and sophomore Carter Johnston teamed up for back-to-back triples, making it a 55-44 score with 10:16 to go. Neither side posted points until senior Ryan Schuller hammered home a dunk to increase the lead to 57-44 with 7:31 remaining.
Tech's largest lead of the afternoon would prove to be 63-46 following an Appleby jumper with just under five minutes to play in the contest. The Lakers made a final push to draw to within seven on a couple of occasions, but that is as close as they would get. Each time the Huskies had the answer with a key field goal or clutch free throw shooting to preserve the victory.
Monroe powered the Huskies with a game high 41 points and 11 rebounds for the double-double. He connected on 12 of 21 shots from the field, including 5 of 8 from three-point range. Monroe also made good on 12 of 15 chances at the charity stripe. Combined with his 53 points against the Lakers in the first meeting of the season, Monroe has 94 points against Grand Valley State this year. Bilski followed with 18 points and six rebounds while junior Trent Bell dished out a team high five assists. As a team, the Huskies found success on 26 of 54 shots from the field (48.1%), were 10 for 20 from three-point range (50.0%), and 16 of 22 at the free throw line (72.7%).
Van Tubbergen paced the Lakers with 27 points and 14 rebounds followed by Ferguson with 23 points and three assists. The Lakers dialed in 27 of 59 shots from the floor (45.8%), were 6 of 21 from long distance (28.6%), and 10 for 15 at the free throw line (66.7%). Grand Valley State had a slight edge in rebounding Saturday 37-33.
The Huskies have clinched a top three seed in the upcoming GLIAC Tournament heading into the final regular season game at rival Northern Michigan on Thursday night. The tip-off is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. eastern time.