HOUGHTON - For the Michigan Tech men's basketball team, the offensive evolution the Huskies displayed Thursday night in an 81-55 win over Malone was as natural as breathing.
Through three games to start the season, senior guard Austin Armga had dominated opponents in the post, scoring at will to the tune of 30 points per game on 67 percent shooting.
So when the double-teams came fast and early Thursday night, the Huskies were well prepared.
Michigan Tech’s Austin Armga scans the Malone defense during the first half of Thursday’s game at the SDC?Gym. Armga had 28 points as the Huskies beat the Pioneers 81-55. (DMG photo by David Archambeau)
Armga found open shooters seven times, including four for three-pointers, to rack up seven assists along with another 28 points on an uber-efficient 11-of-15 shooting. In all, he was directly involved with 46 of Tech's points.
"I was just playing the game," Armga said. "If they are going to come double-team me, and Ben (Stelzer), (Alex) Culy or (Connor) McLeod are standing their wide open then of course we are going to take a three."
"We are so efficient right now it is scary," Tech coach Kevin Luke added.
Malone (2-2, 0-1 GLIAC)
Che Richardson 1-8 4-4 6; Isiah Elliott 5-15 0-0 10; Christian Graves 1-2 0-0 3; Cory Veldhuizen 4-10 2-2 11; Zach Wasson 0-0 0-1 0; Jason Miller 0-0 0-0 0; Brandon Bapst 1-2 0-0 2; Stephen O'Daniel III 3-9 0-0 7; Vince Kazmierczak 0-2 0-0 0; Neil Gingerich 0-1 0-0 0; Daniel Wison 4-7 5-5 13; Brian Stone 1-1 1-3 3; Totals 20-57 12-15 55.
Michigan Tech (4-0, 1-0 GLIAC)
Luke Heller 4-5 1-3 10; Austin Armga 11-15 5-7 28; Alex Culy 4-9 0-0 11; Ben Stelzer 4-11 2-2 12; Troy Hecht 0-1 3-4 3; Jordan Chartier 2-2 0-0 6; Connor McLeod 1-2 0-0 3; Jeff Gregory 0-0 0-0 0; Jason Hawke 1-5 4-4 6; Quintan Harris 1-2 0-0 2; Michael Fisher 0-2 0-0 0; Nicholas Stoll 0-0 0-0 0; James Wezensky 0-0 0-0 0; Totals 28-54 15-20 81.
Halftime score: Tech 42, Malone 30
3-point goals: Malone 3-20 (Richardson 0-4, Elliott 0-6, Graves 1-2, Veldhuizen 1-2, Bapst 0-1, O'Daniel III 1-3, Kazmierczak 0-2); Tech 10-23 (Heller 1-1, Armga 1-1, Culy 3-6, Stelzer 2-8, Hecht 0-1, Chartier 2-2, McLeod 1-2, Hawke 0-2); Rebounds: Malone 27 (Veldhuizen 9), Tech 33 (Armga and Culy 6); Assists: Malone 4 (Elliott 2), Tech 12 (Armga 7); Total fouls: Malone 15, Tech 14; Technical fouls: None.
A - 825.
Armga started the game by finding Stelzer (12 points) wide open on the wing the first play of the game, and later dished to McLeod and Culy (11 points) after double-teams had come to help give Tech a 42-30 halftime lead.
He would find Chartier in the second half on a great-vision skip pass to help drive in the dagger.
"Coach even said before the game, they are going to start doubling him, he might not end up with 20 points but he could get 20 assists," Culy said. "He sees the floor well. He is very aware and it makes him tough to double."
All the while, Armga just keeps scoring.
The whole arsenal was on display once again Thursday, complete with acrobatic rim-runs, split double teams, transition baskets and his trademark pull-up 10-footer.
It has gotten to the point where defenders are taking a full step back when Armga has the ball at the three-point line, leaving the 48-career three-point shooter with plenty of room.
Armga hit his lone three-attempt against Malone - but not before having a conversation with Culy about the merits of such shot. During open play.
"I actually caught the ball, pump-faked, and then looked at Culy to swing it back. He was like, 'Shoot it, what are you doing?' I looked at him, and was like, 'OK, I'll shoot it.' I had that much time to stand there and shoot it," Armga said.
The third game in a row over 80 points, the offense was plenty for a Tech team denying Malone anything easy on the defensive end.
The Pioneers shot 35 percent from the field and hit just 3-of-20 three-pointers.
The only saving grace for the athletic opponents came on the offensive glass, collecting 10 offensive boards in the first half.
But the Huskies even limited those opportunities in the second half - giving up just five - to coast easily to the victory.
Culy and Armga led Tech with six rebounds apiece.
"It was just about securing the ball," Armga said. "I felt like we were putting a body on guys (in the first half), but then just tipping the ball around. We needed to just go and grab it. And I think we did that much better."
While not crucial for the victory, the Huskies got a big-picture boost as well with sophomore center Luke Heller chipping in 10 points and three offensive rebounds in 25 minutes.
Heller hit a three with the shot clock running down in the first half and made himself a nuisance on the offensive glass to come up with a couple layups.
"We are going to need him," Armga said. "He can shoot it, he just needs to be confident shooting it. That was good to see."