Tech men win 4th straight thanks to GVSU’s missed layup

Michigan Tech’s Bryan Heath drives against Grand Valley State’s Myles Miller Thursday at the Wood Gym. (David Archambeau/Daily Mining Gazette)

HOUGHTON — Grand Valley State’s Myles Miller must have felt like Moses crossing the Red Sea when he went the length of the court, drove to the basket and went unchallenged at the rim as the Michigan Tech defense parted out of his way. 

Miller laid the ball up to the rim, and the 971 in attendance likely began mentally preparing for overtime during the split second the ball sat in the air. But then, the shot rolled off the rim and landed on the floor as the buzzer sounded. Miller bent over in disbelief, hands on his head and the Huskies walked back to their bench with a sense of relief and a 77-75 victory Thursday at the Wood Gym.

A win’s a win, right? 

“It’s a case where we were a lot lucky,” Tech coach Kevin Luke said. “That last layup, I’m not sure how it didn’t go in. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.” 

It was a night when Tech would take all the luck it could get. The Huskies lost sophomore point guard Tommy Lucca to an injury just 1:20 into the game when he went down along the sideline. He was carried off the court and was not able to put any pressure on his left leg. Lucca watched the second half on the bench with his left knee wrapped in ice and propped up on a chair. The GLIAC Freshman of the Year missed 11 games earlier this season with a knee injury. 

“He’s going in for X-rays. That’s all I know,” Luke said. 

Junior Bryan Heath led the Huskies with 23 points, while junior Kyle Monroe finished with 22 on one of his poorer shooting nights of the season (8 of 23). Expecting Monroe to score at least 20 points is about the same as assuming it will snow in the Copper Country during the winter months. But it’s Heath’s scoring that elevates the Huskies’ offense. When he’s on, Tech almost becomes unbeatable. The Huskies (11-9, 8-5) are now 5-0 this season when he scores at least 14 points in a game. 

“Everybody on the team picks me up,” Heath said. “If I miss a couple shots, they tell me to keep shooting and keep driving. I got to give them credit. They give me a lot of my confidence, and I know that’s what we need from me, so I have to keep doing it.”

Heath looked the part of a confident player who was in a rhythm. Everything from shooting without a second thought to screaming in elation after a made basket. He converted 7 of 12 shots, including 4 of 7 from 3-point range. He swished back-to-back 3s for a 28-18 lead with 9:31 left in the first half. 

The 23 points now put him just 14 away from reaching the 1,000-point mark.

“It’s been a while since I felt like that,” Heath said of feeling in a zone. “I had a good practice yesterday and I hit a bunch. I came into the game really confident and I think it just carried over. Once you make one, a shooter’s gonna shoot.” 

Lucca’s absence meant more minutes for senior Dillon Gordon and freshman Isaac Appleby. The two are accustomed to playing key minutes after Lucca’s earlier absence in the season, and they came up with key plays down the stretch. 

Gordon made 4 of 5 shots and finished with 10 points. He converted a 3 for a 70-63 lead with 4:07 remaining. Gordon leads the league in 3-point percentage (56.8 percent).

“I like what Dillon does because he sparks us,” Luke said. “Every time he touches the ball, you think it’s going in. You’re hoping he shoots.” 

Appleby would convert two free throws for Tech’s game-winning points for a 77-69 advantage with only 1:03 left. And that should have been that. But instead, GVSU (11-10, 6-7) made it interesting with sophomore Hunter Hale swishing a 3 and Miller converting a 3-point play following a Tech turnover to cut the deficit to 77-75 with 34 seconds remaining. 

On Tech’s final possession, GVSU junior Chris Pearl got a piece of Monroe’s 3, allowing Miller to come down with the rebound. After a brief pause, Miller drove to the lane in under 3 seconds before missing the game-tying layup. 

“The last I looked at the clock, he was about at three-quarters court,” Luke said. “I’m not sure if our wall wasn’t there, but he got to the rim. I think guys were afraid to foul, so we were in kind of a matador defense there … That’s a situation that we need to know. We didn’t have a very good wall at the end.”

As a team, Tech made 26 of 53 shots (49 percent) and was 12 of 26 from 3 (46 percent). GVSU made 29 of 63 attempts (46 percent) and was 7 of 14 from 3. The Lakers held a 43-24 edge on the boards, with Hale leading the way with 10 rebounds to go with his 24 points. 

Next, Tech hosts Purdue Northwest Saturday at 3 p.m.

– – – 

GVSU 39 36 — 75

Tech 43 34 — 77

GVSU — Lubitz 6, Van Tubbergen 14, Miller 10, Hale 24, West 6, Dorsey 13, Baar 2. F: 21; Fouled out: None; Free throws: 10-14; 3-point field goals: Hale 4, Lubitz 2, Miller. 

Tech — Monroe 22, Grazulis 8, Lucca 3, Appleby 6, Heath 23, Gordon 10, Bilski 5. F: 16; Fouled out: None; Free throws: 13-19; 3-point field goals: Heath 4, Monroe 3, Gordon 2, Bilski, Appleby, Lucca.