HOUGHTON, Mich. – The Michigan Tech men's basketball team held off the defending NCAA Division II National Champion Ferris State for a 64-61 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference win Thursday night in the SDC Gym. The Huskies built a 36-28 lead at the break and withstood a second half charge by Bulldogs, thanks to some clutch baskets and stops on the defensive end of the floor.
"Ferris State is a very good team that is well coached, athletic, and plays hard," Michigan Tech Head Coach Kevin Luke said. "I'm really proud of our team tonight and I thought the key to the win was that we made some plays that we haven't in the past to keep the lead. We had a number of guys step up at big moments in the game and with their ability to make some key plays, it continues to boost their confidence. We stuck with the game plan tonight and responded well to get a big conference win.
"We have to move forward tomorrow, focus on the good things from tonight, and get our guys ready to face a very good Lake Superior State team on Saturday. They have given us trouble for a while and they are going to come in with a head of steam. We have to be on top of our game again in order to give ourselves a chance to win."
Michigan Tech (8-6, 3-4 GLIAC) had to battle from behind early Thursday night, but kept things close until finding a rhythm. DeShaun Thrower gave Ferris State (11-7, 3-4 GLIAC) the first two points of the evening on a jumper with just over 18 minutes left in the first half. Freshman Owen White tied things up at 2-2 with a layup on the ensuing possession for Tech before Greg Williams put the Bulldogs ahead at 4-2 with 17:44 on the first half clock.
Ferris State's largest lead would be just four points on two separate occasions, the second taking place at the 12:51 mark of the opening frame. D'Angelo Hughes converted on two free throws, giving the Bulldogs an 11-7 edge. Freshman Dawson Bilski filled up a triple on the next Tech possession and then Carter Johnston guided in a trey of his own with 11:30 to go until the break, making it a 13-11 score in favor of the Huskies.
White eventually increased the gap to 23-16 when he found the target from downtown off an assist by sophomore Isaac Appleby. Sophomore Trent Bell bumped the advantage to double digits for the first time at 29-18 on a layup with 7:10 go in the first and then with 6:39 remaining until intermission, freshman Jake Witt granted the Huskies what would be their largest lead of the evening at 31-18 on a jumper in the lane.
However, the Bulldogs went on a scoring burst during the next few minutes and chopped their deficit down to 31-28 on a Cole Walker layup just under the two-minute mark. Fortunately, the final five points of the opening frame would belong to the Huskies. Witt answered the Walker layup with one of his own and then sank a trey with 31 seconds left in the half, giving Tech the 36-28 cushion with 20 minutes in the books.
The Huskies reconstructed their double digit lead at 39-28 thanks to a three-point bucket courtesy of sophomore Trent Bell in the opening moments of the second half. Ferris State drew to within three again at 44-41 with 12:46 to play on an Armani Tinsley triple, but it wasn't long before Tech had another 13-point cushion. Bilski found the bottom of the net again from three-point land to make it a 54-41 score with 9:47 to go in the second half.
The Bulldogs would not go quietly and within about a five-minute span pulled to within three points again. Tinsley connected one more time from long distance to bring the score to 57-54 with 5:15 to play. A crucial steal by Bilski and a subsequent conventional three-point play by the sophomore guard then gave the Huskies a 62-54 advantage with 4:09 left.
The Bulldogs kept knocking, but Tech always had an answer whether it be key points or stops on defense. With 40 seconds to play, Tinsley kept the Bulldogs alive with another three-pointer and then Ferris State came up with a stop on defense. Jaylin McFadden hauled down a missed Tech shot with 11 seconds left, but a Thrower trey with four seconds to go was off target. Freshman Carter Johnston grabbed the rebound to secure the 64-61 victory for the Huskies.
The Huskies had three players in double figures, guided by Bilski with 18 points on a 7 for 12 shooting night from the field. He also had eight rebounds and two steals on the defensive end of the floor. Witt tossed in 14 point, shared the team lead in rebounds with eight, and had five blocked shots Thursday night. White rounded out the double digit scorers with 13 points against the Bulldogs. Bell had a solid performance as well, chipping in nine points to go along with eight rebounds while Appleby and Johnston dished out six assists apiece.
In terms of team stats, the Huskies found success on 23 of 55 attempts from the field (41.8%), were 8 for 21 from three-point range (38.1%), and 10 of 16 at the charity stripe (62.5%). Tech had 17 total assists and 20 points in the paint against the Bulldogs.
Tinsley powered the Bulldogs off the bench with 14 points followed by Thrower with 12 points in Thursday's contest. Cole Walker contributed 10 points while Markese Mayfield reeled in a game high 13 rebounds for Ferris State. The Bulldogs were limited to a 23 of 72 shooting performance from the field (31.9%), were 6 of 23 from long distance (26.1%), and 9 of 12 at the free throw line (75.0%). Ferris State had a slight edge in rebounding at 44-42.
The Huskies are back on the floor Saturday afternoon when they entertain GLIAC foe Lake Superior State in the SDC Gym. The tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m. eastern time.