Michigan Tech men fall short again

David Archambeau/Daily Mining Gazette Michigan Tech’s Kyle Monroe shoots over Kentucky Wesleyan’s Sam Williams Saturday at the Wood Gym.

HOUGHTON — Those who have attended any of the six men’s basketball games at the Wood Gym this year have gotten their money’s worth.

On average, those six games have been decided by 4.2 points. But the outcome has usually gone against the Michigan Tech Huskies on their home court, where they are now just 2-4.

The latest heartbreaker was a 80-78 nonconference defeat to the Kentucky Wesleyan Panthers on Saturday. Wesleyan junior Adam Stanford converted a layup off a drive-and-dish from senior Ken-Jah Bosley with 2.5 seconds remaining to top the Huskies.

“One of the biggest things I have to concentrate on as the leader of this club, is making sure we’re not giving up, because we’re close,” Michigan Tech head coach Kevin Luke said. “It’s a shot here, shot there, a defense here, a rebound here or a missed free throw, and that’s what happened tonight. We played well enough to win… That means we’re close.”

How close was Tech (5-7) from stealing a win? Try 0.2 seconds.

Coming out of a timeout after Stanford’s basket, Tech sophomore Kyle Monroe caught the inbounds pass from below the halfcourt line and turned up the court before swishing a 3 just inside the volleyball line — but he released the ball a couple tenths of a second after the buzzer as the officials waved off the shot.

No one from the Tech bench disputed the call, and the 671 in attendance didn’t argue the ruling, either.

“We were trying to get a catch by me, then pass up to one of the wings,” said Monroe, who finished with a game-high 29 points, “but (Wesleyan) was playing behind everyone, so we didn’t have the opportunity to get that.

“I figured I had to go with it, and by the time I took my first dribble and looked up, there was only 1 second left, so I tried to get one more quick dribble down and put it up. Guess it was just a second or so late.”

While it’s hard to get upset at a desperation 3 coming after the buzzer, the play that will hang in the minds of the players and coaches was the giveaway on their previous possession.

With the game tied at 78, Tech freshman point guard Tommy Lucca dished it to a cutting Bryan Heath along the baseline; however, the two didn’t seem to be on the same page and the ball sailed out of bounds for a turnover with 11 seconds remaining in the game.

“That wasn’t the play,” Luke said. “We had guys out of position, and I’m more upset about that than losing the game, because we have to pay attention to detail and that’s the thing that is hurting us right now — the little things.

“If you do three more little things, that could mean two baskets. That’s why I’m upset. We just didn’t execute the play. There will be a time when we’ll be good enough to do that, but it’s not right now.”

Another common theme for Tech is the occasional offensive drought. In the first half, the Huskies went nearly five minutes without a basket after Heath scored a layup to put Tech ahead 23-21 with 7:23 left. The Huskies’ next field goal wasn’t until Monroe knocked down a 3 with 2:51 to play in the half to trim Wesleyan’s lead to 33-30. Tech missed all four shot attempts between those baskets and had three turnovers.

Then in the second half, Wesleyan (10-2) went on a 9-2 run to take a 58-48 lead with 11:25 remaining in the game to put Tech on its heels.

“I think we just have to have that same mentality that we do at the end of a game,” Monroe said. “We need everyone on every possession to go after it like it’s the last five minutes of the game.

“We let ourselves down in that hole, then we realize we have to get with it and go. I don’t know why we get in these droughts where we just don’t run our stuff well and everything kind of just goes haywire.”

Lucca finished with 13 points and gave Tech a 77-76 lead on a driving layup with 1:48 to play before Monroe added a free throw with 1:13 remaining for Tech’s final point of the night for a 78-76 advantage.

Heath scored 18 and senior Jordan Chartier added 14 points for Tech.

Heath appeared to regain his stroke from the perimeter, where he converted 4 of 9 shots from 3. In Tech’s previous two games, Heath was just 2 of 14 from beyond the arc.

“I think today I was more in rhythm,” Heath said. “After you go 2 for 14, you think, ‘Man, I’m a big reason why we’re not getting this done.’ You start to get on yourself because you don’t want to be the person letting everyone else down.”

Tech resumes GLIAC play with a trip to Ashland on Thursday.

Kentucky Wesleyan  37 43 — 80

Michigan Tech           33 45 — 78

Kentucky Wesleyan — Williams 9, Foster 13, Jacks 8, Bosley 21, Stanford 10, Derksen 8, Vigilance 11. F: 20; Fouled out: None; Technical foul: Jacks; Free throws: 11-13; 3-point field goals: Bosley 3, Derksen, Williams, Foster.

Michigan Tech — Monroe 29, Grazulis 4, Lucca 13, Chartier 14, Heath 18. F: 13; Fouled out: None; Free throws: 12-17; 3-point field goals: Heath 4, Chartier 4, Monroe 2.