Men seek identity as Uren, Stoll return

HOUGHTON – Sixteen games into the season and the Michigan Tech Huskies men’s basketball team (6-10, 5-7 GLIAC) is still searching for an identity.

At its worst, Tech displays its youthful experience and either falls behind big, or fails to convert on opportunities late in games like they did in Saturday’s 68-62 loss to Saginaw Valley State University (14-4, 10-2 GLIAC). At its best, the Huskies prove they can beat top-tier GLIAC teams, such as defeating Hillsdale College (11-5, 7-5 GLIAC) 74-69 on Jan. 21.

“There’s days and weekends where it looks like this is who we’re going to be, but then there are stretches of games where we’re thinking, man, we have a chance to be OK still and grow,” Michigan Tech head coach Kevin Luke said. “Of course I’m going to approach it that we can get a lot better. I always say this: You’re only as good as your last game. But I’ll tell you what, we can get a lot better than what we played on some of those stretches on Saturday afternoon.

“I don’t want us to be less than .500. I want us to get up and over .500. We have a ways to go.”

Now would be as good a time as any for Tech to begin to find its way; the Huskies have three games on the road in five days, culminating in a showdown with Northern Michigan University (5-11, 3-9 GLIAC) on Monday.

“That’s the granddaddy of them all,” Luke said of the rivalry with NMU.

But first, Tech is on the road at Northwood University (10-8, 6-6 GLIAC) tonight, before heading to Lake Superior State University (13-5, 8-4 GLIAC) on Saturday.

Northwood has the second-highest scoring offense in the GLIAC (82.2 points per game), while Tech has the second-worst (66.3). Senior guard Maurice Jones leads Northwood with 21 points per game, while senior Dylan Langkabel scores 15 a game.

“They have a good set of guards there,” Luke said of Northwood. “They try to speed you up a little bit on offense. You have to be able to stop their transition game and we got to stop their guards.”

On Saturday, Tech’s focus will shift from Northwood’s backcourt to LSSU’s frontcourt. LSSU senior forward Devin Daly averages the second-most points in the GLIAC with 21.5 points a game and the third-most rebounds (9.2).

“I’ve looked at his numbers and he’s really improved, statistically,” Luke said of Daly. “He’s obviously worked on his game and made a commitment to being one of those upper-level players. That’s what you want from your seniors to do and he’s done it for them.

“Lake State’s had our had our number for the last couple of years. We have to try to play better down there.”

Tech has lost its last four games against LSSU.

The Huskies will have two players returning from injury this weekend: junior Nic Stoll, who has not played this season, and sophomore guard Tanner Uren, who has not played since Nov. 19.

“That will help us as far as fresh bodies,” Luke said of getting Stoll and Uren back. “They only practiced this week. They won’t be game-ready, but we may try them if our bench does get short.

“With as short as our bench has been, we may need them. If it warrants it, I’ll throw them in there. We have to find out where we’re at and how we can improve.”

SIGH COMING ALONG

Freshman guard Miles Sigh has scored 35 points in the last four games after scoring nine in the first 12 games of the season. He’s been efficient from the perimeter, where he’s made 10 of 17 3-point attempts.

MONROE, HEATH’S NMU DEBUT

Freshmen leading scorers Kyle Monroe (17.6 points a game) and Bryan Heath (14 points a game) both hail from outside of Michigan; Monroe is from Green Bay, Wis. and Heath from Taylor Ridge, Ill. With the NMU game looming, Luke plans to make sure they understand the significance of the U.P. rivalry game.

“I think just being in the locker room they’ll know what it is, but we’ll put a special emphasis for them Saturday after the (LSSU) game,” Luke said.