DETROIT - Thursday night, after the Michigan Tech men's basketball team took down Wayne State in Detroit 67-61 in overtime to move within a half-game of the Warriors for the GLIAC lead, Tech coach Kevin Luke used the word "battle" in his description of the contest for The Daily Mining Gazette no less than 14 times.
Wayne grabbed 19 offensive rebounds to make up for a 33 percent shooting night but Tech countered with 10 offensive boards of its own and 21-of-27 free throws.
Throw in 29 points and 14 rebounds from Ali Haidar - the GLIAC's ultimate low-post warrior - and the Huskies managed just enough to string their third straight win together against the other top three teams in the North Division.
"Let me tell you, that was a battle," Luke said in a phone interview. "They beat (Haidar) up the whole game. It was a really, really physical game. They just kept pounding Haidar. It was battle after battle after battle, and we won just enough of them."
With a tie game, Tech had the last chance to score in regulation, but Matt Esters and Alex Culy passed on good shots to search for great ones and the possession was squandered with a T.J. Brown desperation heave.
No matter, the Huskies kept their composure in overtime and took a four-point lead with less than two minutes to play after Culy knocked down his second three-pointer of the day. Strong free throw shooting was able to close the Warriors out.
"Shooters shoot," Luke said. "The ball went in to Haidar, he kicked it back out to (Ben Stelzer) and one pass to Culy and he nailed it. It gave us the breathing room we needed."
Senior guards T.J. Brown and Matt Esters both started the game for Tech - combining for 17 points and seven assists. Both hail from the Detroit area.
"It was the first time anyone on this team has won down there," Luke said. "I am really, really happy for those seniors."