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Huskies look to build off successful 2017-18 campaign

HOUGHTON — Michigan Tech basketball is officially back in action this weekend as the Huskies head to Marquette for a GLVC/GLIAC tournament which will feature McKendree University, Lewis University and Northern Michigan University.

The Huskies closed their 2017-18 campaign with an overall record of 15-14 and advanced to the their 21st appearance in the GLIAC Tournament under coach Kevin Luke. The Huskies went 11-9 in the GLIAC and reached the semifinals for the 17th time by defeating Wayne State 88-74 on the road in the quarterfinals.

Entering this season, they are picked to finish third in the GLIAC North Division for the second year in a row, hauling in 43 points in the Preseason Coaches’ Poll announced earlier this year by the conference office. Defending NCAA Division II National Champion and 2018 GLIAC Champion Ferris State earned the top spot in the poll with 58 points and nine first place votes. Northern Michigan checked in second with 47 points.

The Huskies were fourth in the North a year ago and earned the No. 6 seed in the conference tournament. The Huskies will once again have a great deal of experience to build this year’s club on with a number players returning who logged significant minutes.

The team has played a couple of scrimmages and were defeated by NCAA Division I UW-Green Bay a week ago in a 94-74 exhibition game. The Huskies led 40-35 at the break and went up by as many as 14 points in the second half before Green Bay put together a late charge to pull out the win.

“I’m proud of our players and the effort they gave tonight on the road against a solid NCAA Division I program in UW-Green Bay,” Luke said after the contest. “We executed our systems really well throughout the night and had solid contributions from a number of players. However, in the end their athleticism took over and created problems for us in the last few minutes of the game.

“Overall, it was a good effort by our club and we’ll focus on getting better this week as we get set to begin the regular season next weekend against Lewis and McKendree.”

Among those returning are Bryan Heath who had an outstanding 2017-18 season for the Huskies. Heath averaged 13.3 points per game while hauling down 3.0 rebounds per night. Mid-season last year the Brookfield, Illinois, native joined 28 other players in program history to surpass 1,000 career points. He was a Second Team All-GLIAC honoree for his performance on the floor. He is a GLIAC North Division Preseason All-Conference selection for Tech this season.

Sophomore guard Isaac Appleby had a strong freshman season and will be a mainstay in the backcourt for the Huskies. Appleby, a native of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, redshirted during the 2016-17 campaign and then  played in all 29 games and logged 24 starts for the Huskies last season. He averaged 7.2 points per game and led the team in assists by dishing out 3.3 per contest. Appleby established a career high points total of 20 against Northwood on Dec. 2. He was also active on the glass by pulling down 3.4 rebounds each time he took the floor.

Joining Appleby in the backcourt will be junior Tommy Lucca who was limited to nine games last season due to an injury. Lucca averaged 8.2 points per game and connected on 43.8 percent of his triples a year ago. Lucca averaged 15.7 points per contest as a freshman in 2016-17 and enters this year with a career points per game average of 14.0. In two years on the court, Lucca is dishing out 4.3 assists while grabbing 3.5 rebounds per game in 39 total appearances.

Other key returners who saw playing time last season include junior Ryan Schuller, sophomore Trent Bell, sophomore Dawson Bilski, senior Sean Clarey and senior KC Borseth.

The freshman class includes a pair of local players already well-versed in playing in the Wood Gym. Devin Schmitz and Jake Witt faced off in a well-attended match last spring, with Schmitz’s Dollar Bay-Tamarack City Blue Bolts defeating Witt’s Ewen-Trout Creek Panthers.

The Huskies tip-off the regular season on Saturday against Lewis in Marquette at 1 p.m. with the home opener slated for Thursday, Dec. 6, at 7:30 p.m. against UW-Parkside.

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