HOUGHTON - If looked at closely, there are some legitimate insights to take away from Michigan Tech's 117-53 - a 64-point margin for those without a calculator handy - exhibition blowout of Finlandia.
Just look really closely.
The Huskies poured in 60 points in the first half Wednesday, including a 31-11 run to open the game in a decidedly un-Tech like fashion. With the starting five on the floor together for the first seven minutes of action, the Huskies pushed the pace more than in any game last season, turning missed shot after missed shot into fast break opportunities.
Michigan Tech’s Connor McLeod lays it in for two during Wednesday’s men’s basketball exhibition against Finlandia at the SDC?Gym. (DMG photo by David Archambeau)
It was not an accident or consequence of playing a Division III team either. With five players capable of running the floor - including a near-constant three-guard lineup - Tech will (allegedly) be purposefully upping the tempo this season, a rarity under coach Kevin Luke.
"We are going to try and get some easy baskets this year," Luke said, only somewhat tepidly. "I don't want to get caught up in a fast game, and I don't think we did tonight. But we are trying to get some easy baskets early in the clock."
Junior guard Alex Culy acted as the catalyst of the break for most of the first half, pulling down seven defensive rebounds (and two steals), before quickly moving the ball up court. Forwards Ali Haidar and Phil Romback were able to outrun their Finlandia counterparts, resulting in a plethora of lay-ups for a combined 23 first half points.
It is an advantage Tech should have in most games this season, if they decide to pursue it.
"We have the personnel to get up and down more this year," Culy said. "We are obviously still built around getting the ball in to Ali and playing inside-outside, but if it is there we would like to get it up the floor and maybe get some open shots. We are looking for easier shots."
After the first 13 minutes, Luke started substituting freely, getting walk-on Anthony Katona 13 minutes of playing time, along with redshirt freshmen Jordan Chartier, Connor McLeod and Kyle Stankowski their first game action in a Tech uniform.
The 6-foot-9 Stankowski finished with 17 points (12 in the second half) over the smaller Finlandia defense, second on the team to Haidar's 26.
"The biggest thing was that we stayed well within ourselves even though the score was lopsided," Luke said. "I was really happy we didn't get too lazy or soft. We kept doing what we should be doing.
"The other thing I felt good about was that we got those 7-through-12 (players) a lot of minutes. That has to happen in a game like this."
For the true freshmen, it has been decided that Luke Heller will be the only one playing this year, with Michael Fisher, Nicholas Stoll, James Wezensky and walk-on Jeff Gregory all taking a redshirt - a decision that had to be made by Wednesday.
Heller continued his strong play in practice over to the game, collecting four offensive rebounds, dishing two assists and scoring six points in 18 minutes.
He should factor heavily into the rotation this year.
"He has a tremendous basketball I.Q.," Luke said.
"It has actually been a pleasant surprise that he has been able to do what he has done this early in his career as a true freshman."
For the 947 reported attendance who showed up, it may not have been the prettiest game, but the sight of Ali cursing himself for a lost ball means only one thing:
Basketball is back.
"Having the jersey on, getting the band out there, it just doesn't get old," Culy said.