HOUGHTON, Mich. – The Michigan Tech men's basketball team faced the University of Minnesota Duluth in the 2019-20 home opener at the SDC Gym and fell just short 85-80 Saturday afternoon. The Huskies rallied from a couple of double-digit deficits to get within striking distance, but the Bulldogs were able to hold off the late Tech charge.
"Credit goes to Minnesota Duluth because they are a very good club that can defend hard and has a lot of weapons on offense," Michigan Tech Head Coach Kevin Luke said. "When we are able to find a good rhythm and become more fluid, we are going to be a good team too. We can see that the pieces are there, but we haven't been able to gel quite yet and we'll continue to work on that. We improved as a team today, which is key for us as we look to get better.
"We have Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Fairbanks next, who will both be tough teams, especially with the travel. Anchorage has an up-tempo team and Fairbanks has some very capable players as well. It's going to be fun because it will be the first time for all of us to travel to Alaska and they have a great arena to compete in which will be an awesome experience for our players. It will also be good spending Thanksgiving together with the whole team."
Michigan Tech (2-2) broke through for the first four points of Saturday's game when junior Trent Bell recorded a layup following an offensive rebound with just over a minute gone by. Senior Tommy Lucca then made it a 4-0 score with the first two of a career high 34 points in the contest. His previous single game career high was 29 points, set at Lake Superior State on February 4, 2017.
Minnesota Duluth (5-1) slipped in front 8-6 on a triple by Brandon Myer at the 15:24 mark, but the Huskies stormed back to regain the edge with five consecutive points of their own. Lucca fired in a three-point bucket and sophomore Owen White worked his way to the basket for a layup, giving Tech an 11-8 lead with 13:47 to play in the first half.
The Huskies continued to lead 15-12 on the strength of a mid-range jumper from White with 11:21 to go until the break. However, the Bulldogs would put together a 13-0 scoring run to build a 25-15 cushion with just under eight minutes remaining in the first half. Jack Middleton found the target on a jumper to cap the scoring burst by Minnesota Duluth.
The Huskies were able to counter with a 12-2 run of their own over the next four minutes to deadlock the score at 27-27. Junior Dawson Bilski did the honors by filling up a three-point basket with 4:30 remaining on the first half clock. Tech recaptured the lead 37-36 on a free throw by senior Kyle Monroe with 42 seconds left in the half, but Minnesota Duluth closed out the first frame with the final four points. Logan Rohrscheib converted two attempts at the free throw line to give the Bulldogs a 40-37 lead going into the intermission.
Michigan Tech tied the game at 40-40 thanks to a trio of points from White out of the gate to begin the second half. The two sides then traded baskets over the next few minutes, although the Bulldogs held the lead for the majority of that time. The contest remained within a two-possession margin until a three-point basket by Hunter Plamann made it a 61-53 score with 9:25 to go.
The Bulldogs constructed their largest lead of the game at 69-58 on two free throws from Myer with 5:39 remaining in the second half. Tech didn't go quietly and battled back to within three points in the final minute of Saturday's game. Lucca had a couple of conventional three-point plays to draw the Huskies to within three points again at 80-77 with 52 seconds left on the clock. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs countered with three points of their own before Tech freshman Eric Carl answered with a trey with under 15 seconds left to make it 83-80. With four seconds on the clock though, Rohrscheib sealed the win for the Bulldogs on two successful free throws.
Lucca led all scorers on Saturday with 34 points by knocking down 12 of 19 attempts from the floor while going a perfect 7 for 7 at the free throw line. In addition to his points total, Lucca grabbed seven rebounds and dished out eight assists. Bilski followed with 12 points and six rebounds while White rounded out the double-digit scorers with 11 points and five rebounds. Bell chipped in nine points for Tech and Monroe wrapped up the contest with seven points.
As a team, the Huskies connected on 31 of 67 shots from the field (46.3%), were 7 for 22 from three-point range (31.8%), and 11 of 12 at the charity stripe (91.7%). Tech posted 38 points in the paint and forced 14 Minnesota Duluth turnovers which turned into 15 points on the offensive end of the floor.
Plamann had 19 points off the bench to lead the Bulldogs in Saturday's game. Myer followed with 18 points and a game high 12 rebounds; Alex Illikainen tossed in 16 points and Rohrscheib chipped in 11 points. The Bulldogs found success on 27 of 61 shots from the field (44.3%), were 10 for 26 from long distance (38.5%), and 21 of 25 at the free throw line (84.0%).
The Huskies are back on the court Friday night in a non-conference showdown at Alaska Anchorage followed by a battle with Alaska Fairbanks Saturday. Friday's tip-off is scheduled for 11:30 p.m. eastern time with Saturday's contest slated for a 9:15 p.m. eastern time start.