Monroe scores 39 to lead Michigan Tech past Walsh
HOUGHTON — Walking out of the postgame interview room, Michigan Tech sophomore Kyle Monroe slowly limped back to the locker room with his injured ankle that kept him out of three games.
That was about the only time he looked like a normal human Saturday afternoon at the Wood Gym.
Monroe ooh-ed and aah-ed the crowd with his 3-point shooting and bevy of post moves on his way to a 39-point performance, leading the Michigan Tech Huskies to a 92-89 GLIAC win over the Walsh Cavaliers.
“Once you get your first couple of shots to fall, that’s kind of when you start thinking that you might be able to do something a little special tonight,” Monroe said. “The good shots I took, I got them almost all to fall, so you start to get that feeling going, and it can carry you a long way.”
No matter who Walsh (6-1, 1-1 GLIAC) put on Monroe, they were immediately exposed. If Monroe caught it on the perimeter, he knocked down a 3 or a midrange jumper with the space given to him. Against a smaller player, his strength and size overwhelmed on the block and he utilized his left hook.
Eventually, Tech (3-4, 1-0 GLIAC) repeatedly isolated Monroe on the left side of the court and let him go to work. Monroe poured in 29 points in the first half on 11 of 13 shooting. He finished the game 14 of 22 from the field, including 6 of 10 from beyond the arc.
“Every time we came down the floor, I said something to (point guard) Tommy (Lucca) like, ‘Go to Kyle. Run these different plays for him,'” sophomore Bryan Heath said. “That’s what we did, and (Monroe) kept making plays.”
The 39 points is a Tech career-high for Monroe, whose all-time high is a 43-point game while at Ashwaubenon High School.
Monroe’s performance is even more impressive when you consider he’s not even fully healed from his ankle injury. He think he’s only 85-90 percent fully healthy, and he even went back to last year’s shoes, which feature a lower top, allowing his ankle to feel more relief.
“I can’t really run down the court right now, and defensively I’ve been subpar,” Monroe said.
Monroe’s first half appeared to be infectious to the rest of the team. Tech shot 22 of 30 from the field and was 9 of 14 from beyond the arc in the first half as they took a 60-45 lead over Walsh.
This was the Michigan Tech team that had the coaches excited in the preseason. There was Heath and senior Jordan Chartier knocking down 3s, and freshman Tommy Lucca playing a controlled game from the point guard position — and then everything that Monroe brings.
Heath finished with 13 points; Lucca had 11 points and six assists; and Chartier added four 3s for 12 points. Junior A.J. Grazulis chipped in with 11 points and six rebounds.
The Huskies eventually cooled off in the second half, but they still managed to shoot 58 percent from the field for the game while making 13 of 29 attempts from 3-point range.
“I’m not saying we’re going to shoot that well every night, but if we can execute and get high-percentage shots, we’ll give ourselves a chance,” Teach head coach Kevin Luke said. “We needed all the points we could get. Walsh has a high-powered offense.”
Walsh entered with the second-highest scoring offense in the GLIAC (92 points per game), and they were bound to make a run.
The Cavaliers fell down by as many as 18 after Lucca converted a driving layup. But over the next 11 minutes, the Cavaliers outscored Tech 25-7 to tie the game at 81 after a jumper by senior Trey Fletcher. The Huskies were held without a basket for 4 minutes, 1 second while Walsh scored nine unanswered points.
“After it started to slip, we mentally got tough,” Heath said. “We took care of it a little better and got better shots. That’s what we needed to do.”
Tied at 83, Walsh’s leading scorer, senior Zac Carter (22.7 points per game), fouled out with 3:05 left in the game. Carter exited with 20 points.
“I was still scared to death of Fletcher and (Jameel Moore),” Luke said about Carter fouling out. “Zac Carter is a really good player and has hurt us for years, but those other guys were in a good offensive flow in the second half.”
Fletcher scored a team-high 21 points, and Moore had 17.
Last year, Tech lost many games like this — close, tightly contested games down the stretch. But the learning experiences from last year appeared to pay off, and Lucca found Grazulis under the basket by himself for a layup with 1:10 remaining to give Tech an 88-86 lead that it would not relinquish.
Both Heath and Monroe each knocked down two free throws to secure the win.
“Just the experience me and Kyle got last year was huge,” Heath said. “Now having that, me and him know how to take this good win and keep building on this, and know what it takes to win in this league. That’s something tough to learn as a freshman or sophomore.”
TECH’S FIRST WIN OVER WALSH
Saturday’s victory marked the first time Tech has ever beaten Walsh in men’s basketball. The Huskies were previously 0-4 against the Cavaliers before Saturday’s game.
“I was really happy and proud of our guys. I was happy for all the past players, because these guys wanted to win it for the past players,” Luke said.
Up next, Tech heads to Lake Erie on Thursday.
Walsh 45 44 – 89
Tech 60 32 – 92
Walsh — Parker 2, Fletcher 21, Carter 20, Carpenter 8, Vaudrin 12, Wess 9, Moore 17. F: 23; Fouled out: Carter; Free throws: 13-17; 3-point field goals: Carter 4, Moore 3, Wess 3, Fletcher 3, Carpenter.
Tech — Monroe 39, Grazulis 11, Lucca 11, Chartier 12, Heath 13, F: 18; Fouled out: Grazulis; Free throws: 13-17; 3-point field goals: Monroe 6, Chartier 4, Heath 2, Lucca.