Tall task: Huskies set to face defending national champs in Bulldogs

David Archambeau/Daily Mining Gazette Michigan Tech’s Dawson Bilski (14) readies to attempt a jump shot during a game against Winona State earlier this season at the Wood Gym.

HOUGHTON — The New Year has not been kind to the Michigan Tech men’s basketball team. The Huskies are 0-2 coming off the holiday break, having lost first to Ashland, 67-44, a week ago and then to Wayne State, 67-54, on Saturday.

The Huskies are 7-6 overall and 2-4 in GLIAC play.

While the Huskies knew they had their work cut out going up against a No. 10 ranked Ashland, coach Kevin Luke was not pleased with how his team played.

“We just didn’t execute well,” he said. “We got pummeled by their inside guys. We had a really tough time slowing them down.

“They pounded the ball inside all night long, and collectively we need to do a better job of shutting that down defensively. Credit to Ashland, because they are a great club and did a good job of speeding us up and getting us out of rhythm on the offensive end of the floor.”

Ashland scored 38 of their 67 in the paint. On the other end of the court, the Huskies only had 14.

Sophomore Dawson Bilski paced the Huskies’ offense with 15 points by firing in 6 of 12 shots from the field Thursday night. Bilski also contributed two rebounds, two assists, and one steal.

Owen White followed with seven points, Tee Aaron Powell had six points, and Trent Bell ended the night with five points and a team high 10 rebounds. Sophomore Isaac Appleby distributed three assists and blocked a trio of Ashland shots. As a team, the Huskies made 16 of 52 shots from the floor (30.8 percent), were 5 of 14 from three-point range (35.7 percent), and 7 of 8 at the free throw line (87.5 percent).

While the Huskies went down to defeat on Saturday at Wayne State, Luke was pleased with the effort and how his team bounced back from Thursday’s loss.

“Even though we are disappointed with the loss, I thought we played better,” he said. “The process isn’t all about the results, but the program advancing. I felt like we did that (Saturday). Wayne State is a very tough and well-coached team that plays as hard as any team in the country and we stayed with them.

“I was very pleased with our effort, our rebounding, and I thought we executed better and made progress.”

He added that he was pleased with the play of Powell and Jake Witt.

“They are coming along nicely,” he said.

Powell and Bilski guided the Huskies with 13 points apiece Saturday afternoon. The points total along with seven rebounds for Powell were also career highs in each of those categories. Bilski shared the team lead with Bell in regards to rebounds as each player hauled down eight.

Heath followed with 11 points to round out the double-digit scorers, Witt chipped in eight points, and Appleby had a team-high five assists.

In terms of team stats, the Huskies fired in 20 of 61 shots from the field (32.8 percent), were 7 of 19 from long distance (36.8 percent), and 7-for-13 at the free throw line (53.8 percent). Tech out-rebounded Wayne State 43-37 and had nine second chance points thanks to 16 offensive rebounds.

Their schedule does not get any easier tonight as they face the defending NCAA II national champion Ferris State Bulldogs (11-6 overall 3-3 GLIAC) at the Wood Gym.

“They have a lot of returners and are a very good team,” said Luke of Ferris State. “They are an aggressive team that are probably going to press us the whole game whether they are up by 40 or up by one.

“They want teams to speed up and we are capable of being sped up, but we will have to battle against that. They are very good on the board, good in transition and good at taking the ball to the basket.”

On Saturday the Huskies face the Lake Superior State Lakers (7-5 overall 3-3 GLIAC).

“We are facing two good teams at home (this week),” said Luke. “It will give us a chance to see if we are progressing as a team in the right direction.”