HOUGHTON, Mich. – The Michigan Tech men's basketball team held off a late charge by Saginaw Valley State Thursday night in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference opener, prevailing 75-67 in the SDC Wood Gym. The Huskies went up by as many as 17 points in the second half before the Cardinals were able to cut it to four with just over 30 seconds to play. Tech was able to seal the win though by recording the final four points while holding SVSU off the board.
"I'm happy for the locker room because the notch went into the win column tonight," Michigan Tech Head Coach Kevin Luke said. "I don't think we played particularly well, but I like to give credit where credit is due because I think Saginaw Valley State played hard, were aggressive, and caused some problems for us. I thought our guys did a nice job of getting the ball to Kyle [Monroe], especially in the post. Saginaw Valley State had guards matched up with Kyle defensively and I think he can take advantage of those types of situations.
"The Cardinals came in here and executed a good game plan and made it really close. We also need to do a better job of rebounding and converting at the free throw line. If you want to be a quality team and get better, you have to be able secure the ball and convert at the line especially in those late game situations."
Michigan Tech (4-3, 1-0 GLIAC) led for the majority of the game and began the night quickly with a 7-1 run. Junior Bryan Heath and senior A.J. Grazulis went right into the paint for the first four points of the game on layups. The Saginaw Valley State (2-5, 0-1 GLIAC) defense applied some intense pressure on the perimeter, limiting the Huskies to just 10 shot attempts from behind the three-point arc. However, Tech was able to take advantage of some space in the lane which led to 36 points in the paint.
Senior Tanner Uren capped the 7-1 run to begin the contest with one of Tech's four triples in the game with 17 minutes on the first half clock. The Huskies expanded their lead to seven points at 13-6 on a layup from sophomore Ryan Schuller at the 15:41 mark, but the Cardinals would rally to take the lead with an 11-2 run of their own. Sebastiano Lamonato sent SVSU in front 17-15 on a layup with 12:23 to play until the break.
The Cardinals would hold the lead for just over two minutes Thursday night and with 8:40 remaining in the first, junior Kyle Monroe pushed the Huskies back on top 24-22 with a triple. Tech never trailed again in the contest, although Saginaw Valley State wouldn't go away quietly.
Michigan Tech carried a 39-35 edge into the locker room at halftime and looked to put the game out of reach early in the second half. The Cardinals drew to within two points at 39-37 on a layup from Jeremy Pung off an offensive rebound to begin the second, but the Huskies countered with a 14-2 run to go up 53-39. Heath dialed in a triple to get things rolling and a layup courtesy of Uren produced the final two points.
Tech's largest lead of the night came at the 13:19 mark of the second half when senior Dillon Gordon zeroed in from downtown, making the score 62-45. The Huskies continued to maintain a double digit lead at 70-60 with just over three minutes to play following a Monroe layup. However, the final moments of Thursday's contest became a little too close for comfort for the Huskies.
Saginaw Valley State put up seven of the next eight points to close the gap to four points at 71-67 with just 36 seconds left. Mike Wells Jr. converted a pair of free throws to make it just a two possession game and time remained on the clock for the Cardinals to maybe draw closer. Fortunately, Tech's defense forced two errant shots resulting in defensive boards and Monroe along with Heath teamed up to generate the final four points of the night at the free throw line to seal the win.
Monroe powered the Huskies with 29 points, firing in 12 of 21 attempts from the field. Monroe also grabbed six rebounds and dished out three assists. Heath closed the night with 13 points, picked up three rebounds, and harassed the Cardinals' offense with four steals. Uren chipped in five points and reeled in a team best eight rebounds. Freshman Isaac Appleby had six points and seven rebounds while Grazulis just missed double digit point totals with eight points on Thursday.
As a team, the Huskies found the bottom of the net on 27 of 50 shots from the field (54.0%), were 4 of 10 from behind the arc (40.0%), and 17 of 26 at the free throw line (65.4%). Tech's defense forced 11 turnovers which led to 14 points on the offensive end of the floor.
Lamonato led the Cardinals off the bench with 16 points followed by Jake Daniels and Malik Garner with 11 points each. Lamonato also paced SVSU on the glass with six rebounds while Garner distributed a game high five assists. The Cardinals out-rebounded the Huskies 39-30 and had 14 second chance points due to 15 offensive rebounds.
The Huskies will be back on the floor Saturday when they host Northwood University in another GLIAC contest at the SDC. The Timberwolves lost at Northern Michigan Thursday night in their GLIAC opener 82-71. The tip-off for Saturday's game is slated for 3 p.m.