Tech men look to bounce back after break

Michigan Tech's A.J. Grazulis shoots against Saginaw Valley State on Nov. 17, 2017 at the Wood Gym. (David Archambeau/Daily Mining Gazette)

HOUGHTON — The holiday break could not have come at a better time for the Michigan Tech Huskies. Following a five-game win streak, Tech dropped its final two games in 2017, losing a key GLIAC matchup to rival Northern Michigan, 77-65, and a nonconference game against Winona State, 98-66.

“The break was perfect,” Tech coach Kevin Luke said. “Without Tommy (Lucca) the guys were starting to get a bit tired, I think. He makes a big difference for us.”

Tech will attempt to bounce back at home with a GLIAC matchup tonight against the Ashland Eagles (10-3, 3-2 GLIAC) and Saturday versus the Tiffin Dragons (4-8, 1-5 GLIAC). Whether Lucca will return after missing the last 11 games is still to be determined. He has started practicing after having surgery.

“Tommy’s getting better,” Luke said.

One of the key areas Tech attempted to address over break is one of the signature attributes of the program: toughness. That includes both the offensive and defensive ends. Defensively, Tech ranks seventh out of 12 teams in the league in points allowed per game (73.2).

“We’ve done a lot of focusing on getting a score and stop and stringing them together,” Luke said. “We’ve been emphasizing our toughness and aggressiveness. That’s what we’re trying to do. We have to get better at that.”

Tech will need every bit of mental fortitude in limiting Ashland senior Wendell Davis, who is second the league in points per game (21.5). Davis converts 55 percent of his shots and is a 49 percent shooter from 3-point range. Only Tech junior Kyle Monroe (26.9) scores more in the GLIAC.

“He can score from every level,” Luke said. “He can score from 3, can score off the drive and can post up. He’s going to be a handful for us … He plays his butt off.”

Tiffin enters Saturday after having lost its last five GLIAC matchups. The Dragons defeated Lambton (95-56) and Carlow (85-56) to end a six-game losing skid.

“With both these teams we’re home, so we should be at a certain level of comfort,” Luke said. “Tiffin is athletic, and they’re going to mix it up with all types of defense, and they get out and go, too.

“I hate like heck to say it, but on any given night, anybody can beat anybody, and we’re in it for the next two months.”

PROTECTING THE BALL

Tech ranks second in the country in turnovers per game, averaging just 8.3 miscues per contest. Only Northwest Missouri State (8.1) averages fewer turnovers per game.

HEATH CLOSING IN ON 1,000

Tech junior Bryan Heath is set to become the 29th Husky to join the men’s 1,000-point club. Heath sits at 888 points and is averaging 13.1 points per game this season. At his current pace, he would reach the milestone at home either during a Feb. 1 matchup against Grand Valley State or a Feb. 3 game against Purdue Northwest.

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