Michigan Tech snaps 3-game losing streak

Michigan Tech's Bryan Heath looks for an opening as Concordia-St. Paul's Ahmad Newsome defends Saturday, at the Wood Gym. (David Archambeau/Daily Mining Gazette)

HOUGHTON — The search for a reliable second offensive option behind Kyle Monroe (25 points per game) has been one of the more glaring concerns for a Michigan Tech team that entered Saturday’s matchup with Concordia-St. Paul on a three-game losing streak. 

The most clear-cut candidate to take on that role would be junior guard Bryan Heath, and he showed the 690 in attendance at the Wood Gym just how good Tech can be when the sharpshooting guard is in a rhythm. 

Heath matched his career-high with 28 points while converting 7 of 10 attempts from 3-point range to lead the Huskies to a 68-57 nonconference win over the Golden Bears. Monroe added 19 points. 

“I got to give credit to a lot of my teammates,” Heath said. “They’re always telling me to shoot and get to the rim. They know I can do it, and I get to the point where if I miss a couple shots, I might get down on myself, but they’ve been bringing me through and telling me to keep confident because it’s going to roll one day, and today it did.”

For Heath, It was a stark contrast from Wednesday’s 84-69 loss to the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs where he was just 2 of 7 from 3-point range and 2 of 9 overall. It didn’t take him long to turn it around as he knocked down his first 3-point attempt of the night just 1:09 into the game. 

“I haven’t shot the ball well for about a year-and-a-half now,” Heath said. “It’s about time that I started to hit some shots. Once I hit the first one, that was key. Hitting your first shot is huge to get on a good night.”

Each offense struggled with Tech (3-3) shooting just 45 percent (23-51) and St. Paul (1-5) finishing 37 percent from the field (20-54). The Huskies had a scoring drought where they scored just nine points for the first 12:29 of the second half, allowing St. Paul to take a 49-48 lead while outscoring Tech 20-9. 

But then Heath got hot. He swished 3s from each of the wings from NBA range before knocking down a corner 3 for a 59-52 lead with 2:46 remaining. 

After three straight 3s, St. Cloud still decided to double off Heath and help on Tech senior forward A.J. Grazulis in the post. Grazulis kicked it out to Heath, who swished another 3 from the left wing for the dagger and a 62-52 advantage.

“That was one of the best things of the game,” Tech coach Kevin Luke said of Heath stepping up. “We ran a simple offense at the end because (St. Cloud) was digging with the guy who entered the ball (to the post), so it was our best offense to throw it into A.J. and have him pop it back out to Bryan.

“It was really nice for Bryan and the team and the success of that offense.”

While Tech’s offense went off in spurts, it was its defense that kept them in the game during the offensive lulls. The 57 points are the least amount the Huskies have surrendered this season, and the lowest total by the Golden Bears so far, also. 

St. Paul started the game 4 of 4 from 3 and took a 17-7 lead just over six minutes in on a 3 from Bryndan Matthews. But the law of averages worked itself out and the Golden Bears closed just 5 of 16 from 3-point range. 

“I thought it looked pretty good,” Luke said of his team’s man defense. “To hold a team like that to 57 is a good effort, but I am disappointed with the 13 offensive rebounds.”

The Huskies will now prepare for their GLIAC schedule by hosting Saginaw Valley State on Thursday and Northwood on Saturday. 

“It’s always nice to snap a losing streak, even if it’s only one game,” Luke said. “I was happy for the guys in the locker room because I think they needed it. I’m happy we won, they should be happy they won, but I’m looking forward to Monday because we’ve got some things to work on to get better.”

LUCCA’S STATUS

Sophomore Tommy Lucca missed his fifth consecutive game on Saturday. He had an MRI on Tuesday and will now seek an opinion on whether to have surgery. 

– – –

St. Paul 29 28 — 57

Tech 37 31 — 68

St. Paul — Keefe 3, Brown 10, Ward 9, Newsome 3, Matthews 15, McRoy 5, Siganos 6, Wesenberg 6. F: 16; Fouled out: None; Free throws: 8-12; 3-point field goals: Matthews 3, Siganos 2, McRoy, Newsome, Ward, Keefe. 

Tech — Monroe 19, Grazulis 3, Appleby 4, Uren 8, Heath 28, Gordon 6. F: 12; Fouled out: None; Free throws: 9-13; 3-point field goals: Heath 7, Gordon 2, Uren 2, Monroe 2. 

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