BIG RAPIDS, Mich. – The Michigan Tech men's basketball team fell in a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference contest at No. 24 Ferris State University 81-76 on Saturday to wrap up the final regular season road trip of the 2016-17 schedule. Despite the loss, the Huskies are still in the hunt to host a home game in the GLIAC Quarterfinals which are scheduled for Tuesday February 28th.
"I'm proud of our team for battling hard and playing tough throughout the game," Michigan Tech Head Coach Kevin Luke said. "We a had a couple of lapses today which you can't have against a great team like Ferris State. There are no moral victories, but we lost to a great team, we gave a good effort and kept fighting. We did have the tempo in our favor which was one of our goals going in and we did a good job in that aspect. It will be good to have the support of the home crowd on Thursday when we host Northern Michigan who is playing well right now."
Both offenses were slow out of the gate, but Ferris State (23-4, 17-3 GLIAC) broke through first on a Quentin Ruff triple with 16:41 left in the first half. The Bulldogs then tacked on five more consecutive points on a dunk and free throw by Zach Hankins in addition to a jumper by Peter Firlik to go up 8-0. Michigan Tech (14-13, 12-8 GLIAC) cracked the scoreboard for the first time with 13:37 left in the first half on a jumper by sophomore Bryan Heath to make it an 8-2 score.
The Huskies defense kept the Bulldogs from pulling out of reach and gave the offense some time to get heated up. Trailing 16-10 with just under 10 minutes to go until the break, sophomore Kyle Monroe cashed in back to back layups to bring Tech to within two points at 16-14. However, each time the Huskies threatened to tie or take the lead the Bulldogs would come up with a big shot of their own.
With 5:35 left in the first half, Ferris State created an eight-point deficit for Tech at 25-17 on two free throws by D'Angelo Hughes. Monroe and senior Jason Hawke countered for the Huskies by teaming up for a pair of layups to slice the deficit back to four at 25-21. Ruff gave the Bulldogs another nine-point advantage at 30-21 with just over four minutes to go in the first half, but two free throws courtesy of Heath made it a four-point game again at 33-29.
Drew Cushingberry answered with a layup for Ferris State, but Heath made another trip to the charity stripe to reduce the deficit to four again at 35-31 with 1:15 on the clock. Hughes and Cushingberry collaborated for five more Bulldog points on a trey and jumper to run the score up to 40-31, but a tip-in by Hawke at the buzzer for the Huskies gave Tech some momentum and just a seven-point deficit at 40-33 at halftime.
Freshman Tommy Lucca opened the second half for MTU with a jumper and with 17:54 to play and then Heath brought the Huskies to within one at 42-41. Ferris State used a timeout to slow the momentum for Tech and maintained the lead at least for the time being. Peter Firlik increased the Bulldogs lead to 50-45 with 12:39 to go, but Monroe and senior Jordan Chartier combined for a pair of triples to put the Huskies in front for the first time 51-50 with 11:21 remaining in the final period.
Unfortunately, Tech was unable to keep the edge for long. The Bulldogs received a layup from Cole Walker and another trey by Ruff to rebuild a four-point advantage at 55-51. Michigan Tech climbed to within two points twice and three points three times, but couldn't recapture the edge. Ferris State kept the Huskies at arm's length for the remainder of the afternoon.
Firlik bumped the lead for Ferris State to nine again at 75-66 with 51 seconds left on two free throws. Tech kept things interesting though in the final minute on three pointers by Chartier and Hawke along with layups from Lucca and Heath. The buckets helped trim the deficit to four twice in the last seconds, but Ferris State free throws prevented Tech from climbing all the way back in it.
Monroe and Heath powered Michigan Tech with 22 points each on Saturday followed by a season high 13 points from Hawke, who went 6 of 10 from the field. Lucca had a team high nine assists and six rebounds to go along with nine points and four steals. Chartier had six points and chipped in with seven assists, helping the Huskies produce 23 total as a team.
Tech finished the contest making 31 of 66 shots from the field (47.0%), they were 8 of 20 from behind the arc (40.0%), and 6 of 10 at the free throw line (60.0%). The Huskies scored 40 points in the paint and picked up 10 points off turnovers.
Ruff powered the Bulldogs with 20 points on Saturday followed by Cushingberry with 15 points. Hankins added 13 points and 10 rebounds for the double-double while Firlik rounded out the double digit scorers with 10 points. Cushingberry distributed six assists and had four steals. Ferris State was successful on 28 of 57 shots from the field (49.1%), were 8 for 21 from three-point land (38.1%), and 17 of 23 at the charity stripe (73.9%).
The Huskies find themselves in a four way tie for second place in the GLIAC North Division standings. Ferris State and Findlay have secured the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds respectively in the upcoming GLIAC Tournament with the other seeds still needing to be decided going into the final game of the regular season on Thursday. Michigan Tech is still in the hunt for a top four seed which would enable them to host a GLIAC Quarterfinal contest at the SDC Wood Gym.
It all rides on Thursdays game at home against Northern Michigan University in Houghton. The tip-off is slated for 7:30 p.m.