ALLENDALE, Mich. – The Michigan Tech men's basketball team is heading to the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament Championship game following a 69-53 victory over Grand Valley State in the semifinals Saturday afternoon. The Huskies were the runner-up in the GLIAC Tournament in 2014 and have three tournament titles in program history going into the 2020 title contest. Tech will battle Northwood, who defeated the No. 8 seed Northern Michigan 64-53 in Saturday's other semifinal game, for the GLIAC Tournament Championship Sunday.
"I thought we played our best game of the year defensively this afternoon," Michigan Tech Head Coach Kevin Luke said. "To hold a great team like Grand Valley State to just 53 points in their own facility, was an outstanding effort. Credit goes to our players defensively and to the whole team for the performance that they put together today. I thought our post players did an excellent job with Ryan Schuller giving us some big minutes. Trent Bell was solid for us as well, especially in the second half defensively against [Christian] Negron. In addition, Owen White really stepped up for us today by hitting some big shots throughout the game.
"Our players are fired up right now about today's win, but we have a lot of work to do to get ready for tomorrow's championship game. It will be good to be in Grand Rapids for another night to face another great team tomorrow in Northwood for a chance to go to the NCAA National Tournament."
Grand Valley State (23-7), the No. 2 seed in the tournament, got out to a quick start in Saturday afternoons contest. The Lakers posted the first seven points of the game with Christian Negron, Jayden Hodgson, and Steven Lloyd combining to provide the scoring. Michigan Tech (22-8) broke through for the first time when senior Kyle Monroe filled up triple at the 17:03 mark of the first half to make it 7-3.
The Huskies continued to trail by seven points at 21-14 with just under 11 minutes to play in the opening frame, but began to get on track with a 7-0 scoring run to knot the contest at 21-21. Junior Isaac Appleby dialed in a trey followed by a layup from senior Ryan Schuller and two free throws courtesy of sophomore Owen White. White would go on to generate a career high 27 points to power the Huskies on the afternoon.
The Lakers took the lead again with a Jeremiah Ferguson three-point bucket on the ensuing possession, but Tech countered with the next five points via a layup from Appleby and a triple by Monroe to grab the advantage for the first time at 26-24 with 6:49 to play in the half. Ferguson deadlocked the score at 26-26 on a mid-range jumper, but then a quick 6-0 burst pushed the Huskies in front once again.
Sophomore TeeAaron Powell sank a free throw followed shortly thereafter by a layup from junior Trent Bell and a long-distance jumper by White to make it 32-26 with 4:52 on the clock. The Huskies kept the six-point edge intact at 38-32 heading into the intermission when Monroe found the target from behind the arc to wrap up the scoring in the opening 20 minutes.
Grand Valley State remained on Tech's heels in the early moments of the second half until Tech created some separation starting at the 16:38 mark. White ignited another 7-0 run for the Huskies on a layup while a steal by junior Dawson Bilski setup a White triple a few seconds later. White then capped the run on a mid-range jumper to grant the Huskies their first double digit lead of the day at 47-36 with 14:21 to go in the game.
The Lakers would get no closer than eight points the rest of the afternoon and by the time the clocked ticked down to 6:52, Bilski granted Tech a 62-47 advantage on another long range jumper. White fittingly wrapped up the scoring for the Huskies Saturday, cashing in a free throw with 1:29 left that resulted in the final tally of 69-53.
White connected on 9 of 11 shots from the field and went 7 for 8 at the free throw line on the way to his game and career high of 27 points. His previous career mark of 26 points was recorded against Finlandia on December 11 in the SDC Gym. White also paced the Huskies in rebounds (7) and assists (4) in Saturday's victory. Monroe followed with 14 points and Bilski rounded out the double-digit scorers with 10 points. Appleby chipped in eight points and tacked on five rebounds in addition to a pair of steals.
As a team, the Huskies were successful on 25 of 53 shots from the field (47.2%), were 11 for 19 from three-point range (57.9%), and 8 of 11 at the free throw line (72.7%). Tech out-rebounded Grand Valley State 33-30 and scored 26 points in the paint.
The Lakers were led by Negron with 18 points followed by Jake Van Tubbergen with nine points and seven rebounds. Tech's defense limited Ferguson and Ben Lubitz to just eight points in Saturday's game. Isaac Gassman dished out a team high five assists. Grand Valley State made 21 of 52 attempts from the field (40.4%), were 5 of 18 from long distance (27.8%), and 6 for 10 at the free throw line (60.0%).
The Huskies are back on the floor in the GLIAC Tournament Championship game to face the No. 4 seed Northwood University Sunday afternoon in Allendale. The tip-off for the championship game is set for 1 p.m. eastern time.