Tech men hope to turn the corner after 76-66 win over Wayne State

Michigan Tech's Tommy Lucca defends against Ashland on Jan. 4 at the Wood Gym. (David Archambeau/Daily Mining Gazette)

HOUGHTON — Before Michigan Tech’s 76-66 win over the Wayne State Warriors on Jan. 18, the Huskies went over a month without a win as they went on a six-game losing streak.

“It’d been so long, I forgot how nice it was to win,” Tech coach Kevin Luke said. 

Now Tech (8-9, 5-5) will look to continue its winning ways and hope last week’s victory was a turning point in the season. Tech heads to Lake Superior State today to face Davenport in a makeup game that was originally scheduled for Jan. 20 before hosting Northern Michigan on Sunday. 

Davenport (9-9, 3-7) is experiencing its own six-game losing streak after starting the season 9-3 and 3-1 in the conference. Davenport had a signature win on Dec. 2, beating Grand Valley State 66-55 and features the third-best offense in the league (77.8 points per game).

“Playing at a neutral site, it’ll be a different element for both of us,” Luke said of the uniqueness of potentially playing in an empty gym. “It’s going to be who adjusts and reacts to the situation the best.”

In addition to junior Kyle Monroe recording 34 points and eight rebounds against Wayne State — a performance that would earn him GLIAC North Player of the Week honors — a key factor in Tech’s win was the performance of sophomore point guard Tommy Lucca, who scored 13 points and made all five shots he took, including three from 3-point range. After a knee injury sidelined him 11 games, Luke believes Lucca is slowly returning to his GLIAC Freshman of the Year form from a year ago. 

“In practice, he looks better and better and certainly with the game, the results were there,” Luke said. “The shots were a great selection and a great finish. I think he feels much more fluid and confident in running this team.”

Out of those 11 games Lucca missed, one was against rival NMU. The Wildcats (10-7, 7-3) earned a 77-65 win over Tech in Marquette. Luke is hoping the presence of Lucca can change the game’s outcome on Sunday. 

“He’s clearly a difference-maker. He’s a good on-ball defender and he can get us into our offense and create shots for other players,” Luke said. “He just has that sense about him of leadership and knowing what the next move is. It’s huge for us and will be a huge boost for us.”

NMU is led by its junior backcourt of Isaiah Johnson (17.9 ppg) and Naba Echols (17.7), who are fourth and fifth in the GLIAC in scoring. Echols scored 21 points on 8 of 15 shooting in the first meeting against Tech, while Johnson finished with 14 points. 

“I think Naba had a great game against us,” Luke said. “He did a lot of one-on-one and I think at that point, we have to minimize his ability to get into the heart of our defense. If we do that, I think we’ll be in good shape. 

“I think the kids will be up to the challenge. We did not play well when we were at Northern Michigan, and we owe it to ourselves to be a better club.”