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Postgame Thoughts on GLIAC Quarterfinal Wins

March 1, 2012 - Michael Bleach
While I don’t envy the long bus rides ahead of the Michigan Tech squads as the men head to Hillsdale and the women to Ashland for the GLIAC semifinals, driving away from the massive snowfall here for a few days does have its appeal.

Thoughts on the men’s 71-59 win over Ferris State and the women’s 82-52 dismemberment of Lake Erie:

1. With 26 rebounds — 26! — and 20 points Wednesday night, Ali Haidar put the team on his back .*

*I will take any chance I get to link to that Youtube video. Seriously, it will make a monthly showing if I can manage it.

Haidar tied a school record with the 26 boards and obliterated the previous GLIAC Tournament record, which was 18.

Most impressively, it was done against strong competition.

Ferris State forwards Daniel Sutherlin (8.0 rebounds per game) and Jerrell Sanders (7.6 rebounds per game) both rank in the top-6 in the conference in rebounding.

But the pair just got it handed to them Wednesday. Haidar found position on the offensive glass seemingly every time down — and really he grabbed seven offensive boards with the team shooting 47 percent for the game — and would seal his man for every defensive shot.

It was a tour de force. A throwback performance to the Moses Malone, Bill Walton, Bill Russel days. 26 rebounds is just absurd.

"Those kids are athletic," Tech coach Kevin Luke said. "They defend and they play hard.

"But, when (Haidar) is engaged on the boards like that, he is getting (the ball). I don't care how high they can jump, he is getting it. And he did tonight."

2. While Ali Haidar played at nearly indescribable levels and senior Mike Hojnacki asserted himself offensively in a way that hasn’t been seen since December and his junior year, both of those angles are sufficiently covered in my game recap (posting online this afternoon).

But Austin Armga’s play performance demands attention too.

The Huskies sixth-man microwave continues to provide bursts of scoring off the bench and he did just that Wednesday night, finishing with 14 points and 12 in the second half.

With Hojnacki drawing extra defensive attention, Armga found driving lanes for his favored eight-foot pull-up. He knocked down five shots and all four free throw attempts.

Interestingly, and by my very unofficial account, Armga scored all five of his buckets driving to the left. He seems to have much better balance pulling up from that side than he does going right.

Either way, the Huskies have found a strong balance between all five players on the floor. Not one Husky can be left alone.

"He really let it come to him tonight and that was awesome," Luke said of Armga. "He didn't force anything and once he got going he just goes and he is hard to stop."

3. The coach-on-the-floor cliche is overused, but when it comes to Alex Culy and Kevin Luke, the connection is obvious.

There is no player Luke trusts more and no player who is better in tune with what the coach wants than Culy.

This was most evident last night four minutes into the second period when Culy, on a fast break, eschewed driving to the hoop and pulled up for a three.

He drained it, giving Tech a 16-point lead and huge momentum boost.

Still, I was curious if Luke, a discipline-disciple and coach who is physically pained by bad decisions approved of Culy’s shot selection?

"That was awesome wasn't it?" Luke said. "Every time. He has to shoot that because they are not giving him any looks as it is and I don't care if he is one on one, that is what he should do."

4. The women must be the scariest 4-seed in GLIAC Tournament history.

They are the reigning national runners-up, reigning GLIAC champs and have made three straight Elite Eights. And now they are rolling.

Against the 5-seed — you know, a team that is supposed to be near equal the 4-seed — Tech looked like they were toying with some bottom-of-the-barrel scrub.

Offense was layups and open 3-pointers. Defense was all contested jumpers.

Sitting one spot out of the NCAA Tournament right now, Tech at least as picked a good time to peak.



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