HOUGHTON, Mich. – The Michigan Tech men's basketball team kicked off the 2020 calendar year with an 80-68 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference win Thursday night over Wayne State in the SDC Gym. The Huskies have now won seven of their last eight games to go to 9-3 on the season.
"I thought we had a couple of really good days of practice this week and we were ready to play tonight after an extended break," Michigan Tech Head Coach Kevin Luke said. "We beat a very good Wayne State team that is well coached, plays hard, and is disciplined. I was really excited that we were able to play a solid game tonight and get a key win. I was happy with the way we stuck with our game plan and executed, especially down the stretch. I liked our team's composure tonight and how fluid we were on offense.
"We face another good team in Ashland Saturday that was ranked as high as No. 10 in the national poll earlier this season. They have struggled a bit early in the GLIAC schedule, but they have some extremely talented players and are well coached. We need to focus on ourselves, continue to play Tech basketball, and give everything we have this Saturday."
Michigan Tech (9-3, 3-1 GLIAC) pulled in front first when junior Trent Bell found the mark from long distance in the opening minute of the first half. Wayne State (4-4, 1-3 GLIAC) battled back with the next five points on a tip-in by Nate Talbot and a three-point basket courtesy of Brailen Neely with 17:34 to go in the period.
Senior Kyle Monroe then ignited a 10-0 scoring run with a layup for the Huskies to tie the contest at 5-5 with 15:59 showing on the clock. Monroe also drew a foul on the attempt and sank the bonus free throw, giving Tech the edge once again. Monroe would eventually be responsible for all 10 of the points in the scoring burst, culminating on jumper with 13:44 left in the first half. The bucket made it a 13-5 score in favor of the Huskies.
The Huskies offense created a pair of 10-point leads in the first half, but Wayne State was able to stay within striking distance. Junior Dawson Bilski dropped in a triple to generate a 21-11 advantage for the Huskies with 9:15 left in the opening frame. Tech then led 23-13 on another Bilski field goal after two free throws from Karim Murray had cut the gap to single digits.
The Warriors closed to within three points with 3:31 left until the intermission on a tip-in by Talbot. Monroe countered the Talbot field goal with a trey and found the bottom of the net on a jumper in the closing seconds of the half to give the Huskies a 37-31 advantage at the intermission.
Tech kept the momentum moving forward into the second half when sophomore Owen White filled up a triple, setup by an offensive rebound by Monroe. White's basket bumped the lead for Tech up to nine points again at 40-31. Senior Ryan Schuller produced what would be the largest lead of the night for the Huskies at the 15:32 mark thanks to a pair of free throws, resulting in a 50-36 score.
However, Wayne State was able to hang around and sliced Tech's lead down to single digits again at 58-50 on a Karim Murray jumper with 9:57 to play. The Huskies were able to connect on some big shots down the stretch though to keep the Warriors at arm's length. Junior Tommy Lucca cashed in two chances at the free throw line to boost the advantage for the Huskies back out to 14 points at 78-64 with 55 seconds remaining. The final points of the night were recorded by Wayne State's Neely, leading to the 80-68 final.
Monroe poured in a game high 35 points by connecting on 13 of 20 attempts from the field, including 5 of 8 chances from long distance. Monroe also recorded a double-double with 10 rebounds and dished out four assists. Bilski followed with 15 points and six boards while Lucca rounded out the double-digit scorers with 11 points and a game high nine assists. The Huskies turned the ball over just five times in Thursday's win.
Michigan Tech found the mark on 28 of 61 field goal attempts (45.9%), fired in 11 of 28 shots from outside the arc (39.3%), and finished the evening 13 for 18 at the free throw line (72.2%). The Huskies dished out 19 assists and had 19 second chance points from 12 offensive rebounds.
Murray guided the Warriors with 23 points and eight rebounds followed by Neely with 21 points and four assists. James Gordon chipped in 10 points and Talbot closed the contest with nine points and eight rebounds of his own. The Warriors made good on 24 of their 58 field goal attempts (41.4%), 7 of 16 looks from three-point range (43.8%), and 13 of 19 opportunities at the free throw line (68.4%).
The Huskies will host Ashland in another GLIAC game on Saturday to wrap up the seven game homestand at the SDC Gym. The Eagles fell at Northern Michigan Thursday night 74-61. Saturday's tip-off is slated for 3 p.m. eastern time.