Tech men seek answers while prepping for tough road trip

Michigan Tech’s Dawson Bilski shoots a 3 against Tiffin Saturday at the Wood Gym. (David Archambeau/Daily Mining Gazette)

HOUGHTON — Any excitement and energy that came with the return of Michigan Tech’s sophomore point guard, Tommy Lucca, was eventually replaced with confusion and dejection as Tech put up two of its worst offensive showings last weekend in a 73-62 loss to Ashland and an 86-68 defeat to Tiffin.

“We’re not very fluid right now,” Tech coach Kevin Luke said. “We have to get the staff and our guards on the same page. That’s what we’re working towards as far as simplifying. We’re not together right now. You can see we’re choppy right now, and being choppy in this league is not good.”

Now, Tech (7-7, 4-3) will take its four-game losing streak on the road to face the two top teams in the GLIAC North: No. 7 Ferris State (16-1, 6-1) on Thursday and Lake Superior State (12-3, 6-1) on Saturday.

“They are the two best teams in the league, and we need to act like we’re one of the best three teams to be there,” Luke said. “There’s no question we can do it, but we have to forget about what last week was and hit the new challenge, which is Ferris State Thursday night.”

Both Ferris State and LSSU lead the major offensive categories, with Ferris State leading the league in points per game (84.1) while LSSU is second (83). LSSU leads the GLIAC in field-goal percentage (53 percent) and 3-point percentage (42 percent); LSSU’s 3-point percentage is also 11th in the country.

“We need to simplify things and make the successes small, something like making two baskets in a row,” Luke said. “Hopefully we can be mentally tough enough to go down and keep it simple.

Behind those impressive stats are some of the best players in the league. Junior center Zach Hankins (13.2 points, 8.9 rebounds) is the reigning GLIAC Player of the Year and is averaging 17.3 points, 11.3 rebounds and 4.3 blocks per game while shooting 72 percent.

Along with Hankins, senior Drew Cushingberry was also selected to the GLIAC North All-Preseason team. Cushingberry is averaging 14 points this season.

“A nightmare,” Luke said of what it’s like to prepare for Ferris State’s leading duo. “But we’ve played them tough in the past. If we can stay with our systems and be tougher than nails, we’ll be right there.”

It doesn’t get easier for Tech on Saturday as the Huskies prepare to face senior guard Akaemji Williams, who is third in the league in scoring (18.8) and first in assists (7.4) and steals (2.6).

“I would put this team against any team when we’re playing good and confident,” Luke said. “I’m not sure we’re there right now, but this might be the games that fixes it, too.”

One positive from the weekend was the play of Tech’s freshmen, Trent Bell and Dawson Bilski. Bell scored a career-high 15 points against Tiffin, while Bilski regained some of his shooting form by knocking down two 3s in the same game.

“They’ve been thrown into the first, and it’s been a big fire for them,” Luke said, “but I think both of those kids have such a bright future that they’re able to handle this. Every game that they have will make them that much better for next year and the rest of their careers. This will be OK for them.”