HOUGHTON, Mich. – The Michigan Tech men's basketball team put together a strong second half rally, but a triple at the buzzer by Northern Michigan resulted in a 64-61 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference setback Sunday afternoon in the SDC Gym. The Huskies trailed 31-19 at the break and battled back to take the lead in the final frame before a late surge by the Wildcats in the last two minutes proved to be the difference in the contest.
"Northern Michigan played well and did what they had to do to get a win," Michigan Tech Head Coach Kevin Luke said. "We struggled to execute our offense in the first half and we made some crucial mistakes down the stretch. We are getting better, but we are still learning how to grind it out and execute on every possession. When we are able to do that, we give ourselves a chance to win games. We have to maintain our concentration on every offensive and defensive possession. That is the way we have to do things in order to be successful.
"Our guys played hard and we did a much better job in the second half. We defended well, but Northern Michigan made some tough shots late in the second half. We have to try to bounce back this week and we have an opportunity to do that in the game against Algoma Saturday before the Holiday break."
Northern Michigan (4-5, 1-2 GLIAC) created an early 7-2 lead Sunday afternoon, beginning with a basket from Troy Summers on the opening possession. Michigan Tech (7-3, 2-1 GLIAC) tied the contest on a layup from senior Kyle Monroe a few seconds later before a jumper from Noah Parcher and a triple by Marcus Matelski capped the opening run by the Wildcats with 17:03 on the first half clock.
The Wildcats eventually opened up a 17-4 lead midway through the half on another Matelski field goal and then with 4:48 to play in the first, built their largest lead of the afternoon at 31-13 on a Parcher trey. The Huskies began to regroup in the final moments of the first half, scoring the last six points of the period. Junior Dawson Bilski connected on a free throw followed by a conventional three-point play by junior Tommy Lucca with 36 seconds to go. Lucca then grabbed a defensive rebound in the final seconds and fired the ball up the floor to junior Isaac Appleby for a layup as time expired. Appleby's basket made it a 31-19 score in favor of the Wildcats at the intermission.
The Huskies continued to chip away at their deficit in the early moments of the second half and pulled to within single digits at 36-28 on the strength of a four-point play by Bilski with 17:15 remaining. Tech stayed within striking distance and sophomore Owen White sliced the gap to three points at 47-44 on a mid-range jumper with 10:39 showing on the second half clock. With 8:07 to play in Sunday's game, White gave the Huskies their first lead at 53-52 with a pair of successful free throw attempts.
The lead switched hands a couple of times before the Wildcats built a two-possession edge again at 59-55 on a Matelski triple with 5:10 left. However, the Huskies kept the pressure on and used a 6-0 scoring run to pull in front 61-59 with just under two-minutes to play. Bilski got things rolling with a layup followed by four points from Lucca on two free throws and a jumper that found the bottom of the net.
Unfortunately, the Wildcats would close out the game with the final five points to notch the win. Myles Howard tied the contest 61-61 on a jumper with 1:24 to go and then the Huskies were unable to capitalize on a couple of scoring opportunities in the final minute. Northern Michigan got the ball back with eight seconds left and just before the buzzer sounded, Matelski lifted in the game winning three-point field goal from the corner for the Wildcats.
Bilski paced the Huskies with a season high 22 points and four rebounds followed by White with 13 points in Sunday's game. Lucca tacked on six points and dished out a team high six assists while Monroe led Tech with eight rebounds. As a team, the Huskies connected on 22 of 56 shots from the field (39.3%), were 14 of 19 at the free throw line (73.7%), and 3 of 24 from three-point range (12.5%). The Huskies scored 32 points in the paint and the defense forced 12 turnovers which resulted in 13 points.
Five Northern Michigan players had 10 or more points in Sunday's game, led by Matelski and Dolapo Olayinka with 11 apiece. Summers, Sam Taylor, and Alec Fruin each chipped in 10 points for the Wildcats. Howard ended the day with a team high six rebounds while firing in five points on offense. Northern Michigan found the mark on 24 of 53 shots from the field (45.3%), were 9 of 21 from long distance (42.9%), and 7 of 8 at the free throw line (87.5%). The Wildcats had the advantage in rebounding 38-29.
The Huskies will host Algoma University (Ontario) in a non-conference game Saturday in the SDC Gym to wrap up the month of December. The tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m. eastern time.