BIG RAPIDS, Mich. – The Michigan Tech men's basketball team saw the 2016-17 season come to a close on Saturday with a 79-71 loss at top-seeded and 17th ranked Ferris State University in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament Semifinals. The Huskies, as in the previous two meetings of the season gave the Bulldogs all they could handle, but FSU used six successful free throws in the final 30 seconds to hang on for the win.
"It was a tough tight game and there wasn't a lot of offense in the first half," Michigan Tech Head Coach Kevin Luke said. "We were able to keep the scoring low and dictated the tempo in the first half and that was to our favor. In the second half, we dug ourselves a little too big of a hole, but credit goes to our guys for fighting back to give us a chance in the end. It's tough to say goodbye to our seniors, but we've had some tremendous efforts and success with this great class of seniors."
To say that Saturday's game was a back and forth battle, especially in the first half, would be an understatement. The two teams traded the lead 13 times and knotted the score 10 times over the course of 40 minutes. Michigan Tech (16-14) got the ball first on the opening tip-off and 27 seconds later junior A.J. Grazulis created the first lead of the day at 2-0. Quentin Ruff countered with a triple for Ferris State (26-4) to make it 3-2 before a conventional 3-point play by sophomore Kyle Monroe gave the Huskies the edge again at 5-3 with 18:46 remaining in the first half.
Neither side enjoyed a lead larger than two points until a pair of free throws by Cole Walker gave the upper hand to the Bulldogs at 14-10 with 14:41 on the clock. Tech countered with five straight points to go on top again at 15-14 on a Monroe layup and a triple courtesy of sophomore Bryan Heath. The Huskies and Bulldogs traded baskets until a Grazulis layup and Heath jumper created what would be Tech's largest lead of the day at 19-16 just past the midway juncture of the first half.
The back and forth pattern continued until the final two minutes of the first half when the Bulldogs rebuilt their lead to four points at 34-30 going into the break. The Huskies had pulled back in front 30-29 on a long range jumper by senior Jordan Chartier, by Markese Mayfield tipped in a bucket and Ruff dialed in a trey to cap the first half scoring for the Bulldogs.
Unfortunately, the 5-0 run expanded into an 11-0 scoring burst at the outset of the second half for Ferris State. Zach Hankins produced a layup and free throw followed by five more points from Ruff on a trey and layup. The offensive output resulted in the first double digit advantage for either side at 40-30 with 18:27 to play in the contest.
Two minutes later the Huskies had chopped the deficit in half to 42-37 on a Monroe triple, but the Bulldogs managed to rebuild their lead out to double figures again at 57-46 on a D'Angelo Hughes three-pointer with 11:27 to play in the contest. Noah King kept Ferris State ahead by 11 points at 61-50 following two free throws with just over eight minutes to go, but Tech wouldn't go away.
The Huskies engineered a 14-3 scoring run beginning with a successful try from behind the arc and a 17-foot jumper by Chartier. King drained a three-pointer for Ferris State, but Grazulis stepped up for consecutive layups which were setup by assists from freshman Tommy Lucca. Monroe converted two free throws and then a trey tied the game at 64-64 with 3:46 left in the contest.
Drew Cushingberry gave the Bulldogs the edge again at 66-64 on a jumper, but a few seconds later a Heath jumper knotted the contest again at 66-66. Greg Williams then bagged a three for Ferris State followed by two Cushingberry free throws and a Ruff layup that put the Bulldogs in front again 73-66 with 1:33 remaining on the clock.
Senior Jason Hawke and Heath kept the Huskies' hopes alive at 73-71 with five straight points, but with less than 40 seconds to play they had to hope the Bulldogs would miss some free throws. Unfortunately, that wouldn't end up being the case. Ruff, King, and Cushingberry combined to go 6 for 6 at the free throw line in the final seconds to put the Bulldogs into the GLIAC Championship game.
Monroe ended the afternoon with a game high 22 points, six rebounds, and five assists to power the Huskies on Saturday afternoon. Heath followed with 18 points, Grazulis tacked on 12 points, and Chartier rounded out the double digit scorers with 10 points. Hawke chipped in seven points off the bench and Lucca wrapped up the contest with eight assists.
Tech was on target with 25 of 56 shots from the field (44.6%), they were 7 of 18 from behind the arc (38.9%), and 14 of 16 at the free throw line (87.5%). The Huskies combined to dish out 24 assists and had 28 points generated with shot attempts in the paint.
The Bulldogs had five players reach double figure point totals, led by Ruff with 17 points on Saturday. Hankins had a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds, Greg Williams and Cushingberry tossed in 11 points each, and King chipped in 10 points. Cushingberry and Peter Firlik shared the team lead in assists with five apiece.
The Bulldogs connected on 24 of 64 attempts from the floor (37.5%), were 9 of 25 from three-point land (36.0%), and sank 22 of 23 looks at the free throw line (95.7%). Ferris State out-rebounded Tech 41-30 and notched 22 second chance points.
The Huskies season comes to a close after making their 20th appearance in the GLIAC Tournament under the direction of Head Coach Kevin Luke.