ALLENDALE, Mich. – The Michigan Tech men's basketball team secured the 2020 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament Championship Sunday afternoon, defeating Northwood in the title game 68-57. It's the third tournament championship in program history for the Huskies, who punched their ticket to the NCAA Division II Midwest Region tournament beginning next weekend.
"Number one we knew it was going to be a tough game and it was a grind it out GLIAC battle," Michigan Tech Head Coach Kevin Luke said. "I thought our defense was excellent again today. We didn't have our best game on offense, but during crunch time in this championship contest our players got it done. Credit Northwood for how they played today, but I am really proud of this team and the outstanding effort they gave to get the win. It is great to be back in the big dance and we are excited to compete in the NCAA National Tournament beginning next weekend."
Michigan Tech (23-8) stormed out of the gate Sunday afternoon with the first five points of the contest. Senior Kyle Monroe fired in the first bucket from outside the arc and then sliced his way to the basket for a layup with 18:55 on the clock. Northwood (18-13) got its first bucket on the ensuing possession, but the Huskies were able to counter with a pair of free throws courtesy of junior Dawson Bilski to make it a 7-2 score with just over 19 minutes left in the half.
The Timberwolves then began to settle in and tied the game twice before taking their first lead of the afternoon at 12-9 on an Evan Lowden triple with 13:13 left in the opening half. The Huskies then dug in themselves with junior Trent Bell providing huge back-to-back layups to send Tech in front again 13-12 with just under 12 minutes to play until the intermission. Nearly three minutes went off the clock before sophomore Owen White capped what turned into a 6-0 scoring run for Tech with a jumper. White's field goal increased the lead to 15-12 for the Huskies.
The Huskies remained on top for the rest of the half, although the gap never grew to greater than two possessions until the final two minutes. Bilski hoisted in a trey to make it a 27-20 score at the 1:28 mark, but Northwood's Danny Kolp quickly cut Tech's lead back to five points on a layup. Monroe answered with a mid-range jumper and a layup to produce four quick points for Tech to make it 31-22 in the last 30 seconds. However, McBride beat the buzzer with a triple for Northwood, leaving the score at 31-25 during the intermission.
McBride's field goal right before the break ignited a 12-0 scoring run for the Timberwolves, resulting in a 34-31 deficit for Tech with 16:32 to play in the contest. The Huskies called a timeout and junior Isaac Appleby helped to get them back on track by drawing a foul and sinking two free throws. The defense then got a stop and Bilski connected on a fade away jumper to push Tech ahead again 35-34. White then followed with a jumper of his own and two additional free throws from Monroe wrapped up an 8-0 scoring run. With 13:36 still remaining in the second half, the Huskies found themselves with a 39-34 advantage.
The Huskies weren't out of the woods yet as Northwood would grab the edge five more times until Tech created some separation in the final five minutes. Monroe tied the game up at 53-53 with 4:50 left and then gave the Huskies the lead for good at 56-53 on a conventional three-point play. The points were setup by Tech's defense which forced a key Northwood turnover.
The Timberwolves then closed the gap down to one again at 56-55 on a Lowden layup at the 3:54 mark, but Monroe poured in seven consecutive points for Tech. The final bucket in that stretch was a triple, granting the Huskies an eight-point advantage at 63-55 with just under two minutes remaining. Northwood would get no closer than six points the rest of the way and Tech put the exclamation point on Sunday's win with the last five points, leading to the 68-57 final.
Monroe, who was selected as the GLIAC Tournament Most Valuable Player, poured in 31 points and hauled down eight rebounds in the title contest. Bilski followed with 14 points and four assists while Bell and White chipped in eight points apiece, with White joining Monroe on the All-Tournament Team for the Huskies. Appleby tacked on five points, six rebounds, and four assists in Tech's win.
As a team, the Huskies fired in 22 of 48 shots from the field (45.8%), were 5 of 15 from behind the three-point arc (33.3%), and converted 19 of 21 chances at the free throw line (90.5%). The Huskies recorded 24 of their points in the paint Sunday.
McBride powered Northwood with 18 points followed by David Jelinek and Jack Ammerman with 11 points apiece. Jelinek reeled in a team high eight rebounds and Ja'Kabien Lewis dished out four assists. The Timberwolves were limited to a 19 of 54 success rate on shots from the field (35.2%), made 6 of 19 of those attempts from behind the arc (31.6%), and 13 of 18 at the free throw line (72.2%). Northwood had a slight edge in rebounding Sunday 34-29.
Michigan Tech is 23-8 overall and finished second in the GLIAC North Division and third in the overall regular season standings. Following the official announcement Sunday night by the national office, the Huskies will be the No. 4 seed in the Midwest Region Bracket. Tech will battle Bellarmine University, the No. 5 seed out of the Great Lakes Valley Conference. The Knights enter the tournament with an overall record of 20-8 and finished tied for fourth in the GLVC regular season standings. The tournament will be hosted by the No. 1 seed Indianapolis with game times still to be determined.