Tech aims to continue 5-game win streak
HOUGHTON — In one of the rare moments of the season, the Michigan Tech Huskies didn’t have to solely rely on Kyle Monroe for offensive production during the second half of Saturday’s 72-46 win over Purdue Northwest.
Monroe still scored 15-second-half points, but the highlight for Tech was seeing junior Bryan Heath and freshman Dawson Bilski each knock down four 3s while they combined to shoot 8 of 13 from 3-point range.
“Kyle made a joke that he couldn’t get a touch in the post because I would go one way and hit a 3, and Dawson would go and hit a 3,” Heath said.
Bilski finished with 18 points in what was his first-career start, while Heath added 17. The duo’s scoring will be imperative Thursday at Saginaw Valley State (8-14, 5-9) and Saturday at Northwood (9-13, 5-9) with the uncertain injury status of sophomore Tommy Lucca going forward. Lucca is set to have an MRI on his ankle on Wednesday. It’s not the same injury he previously missed 12 games with.
Heath reached the 1,000-point mark in the win, and Tech is now 6-0 this season when he scores at least 14 points.
“It’s awesome that Bryan got his 1,000,” Tech coach Kevin Luke said. “He’s been an awesome addition to our program, and I hope he scores 2,000.
“It was great to see how comfortable Dawson was in that starting role. I thought he did a great job. What I really liked was he missed his first (four) shots and stuck with it and ended up having a heck of a game. I think he’s deserving of his chance.”
This weekend will mark the final road trip of the regular season for Tech (12-9, 9-5); a season that has included as many ups and downs as Luke can remember in his coaching career. The Huskies are currently on a five-game winning streak after losing six in a row. Before the six-game losing streak, Tech had won five in a row. And even before that, Tech had lost three in a row after winning the first two games of the season.
“Well, one thing I know for sure is that I don’t have to worry about my hair growing back,” Luke said. “It’s part of the job. You like the wave we’re on, but the downfall we were in was crazy because I’ve never been through that before.
“I’m excited for where we’re at. I think our guys have some confidence moving forward. If we continue to do the things we’re capable of doing, it’ll be a good end.”
One constant for Tech has been its ability to take care of the basketball. Despite the multiple point guards used due to Lucca’s movement in and out of the lineup, Tech is second in the country in turnovers per game (8.7), just 0.1 off Northwest Missouri State.
“I think our guys are just paying a little bit more attention to our systems, being more sure of their passes,” Luke said. “I think we’re being more conscious of taking care of the basketball and for us, that’s good. That just makes it that much more efficient.”
Tech won both prior matchups with SVSU (75-67 on Nov. 30) and Northwood (87-70 on Dec. 2). The common theme in both games was Monroe’s ability to dominate no matter who was defending him. Against SVSU, he scored 29 points on 12 of 21 shots before putting up 32 against Northwood after making 11 of 19 attempts.
Both teams attempted to defend Monroe with guards and forwards, but neither worked.
“Watching the Saginaw game the first time we met, they put five to six different guys on him,” Luke said. “Couple bigs, couple smalls. They were freshmen and seniors. They put it all on him. It’ll be interesting to see what they do.
“If they double him, I always said that he’s a willing passer and he will find those perimeter players. If we can hit those shots, that’s a good thing for us.”