Vital win: Huskies stun defending national champs, 64-61, Thursday at SDC

David Archambeau/Daily Mining Gazette Michigan Tech’s Jake Witt reaches for a layup during a game against Ferris State Thursday at the Wood Gym.

HOUGHTON — While he was hesitant to say it was his team’s best game of the year, Michigan Tech Huskies men’s basketball coach Kevin Luke did agree that Thursday’s 62-59 win against Ferris State was the most complete game of the year.

Whether one wants to call it the best, or the most complete, the bottom line is that the Huskies played 40 minutes of hard-fought basketball and defeated the 2018 NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball champions, a team that was 38-1 a year ago.

“Tonight was very good,” said Luke. “The results were good but most importantly we were able to make plays that kept us in the game. These were plays that helped us keep the lead that we hadn’t been able to make in the past.”

Luke cited several keys to the game, among them was the play of Jake Witt in the first half of the game. He was 5-5 from the field and had nine rebounds in the first 2:30.

He noted two steals in the second half by Dawson Bilski which were converted into four points towards the end of the game. He liked the layup by Owen White with just 53 seconds left in the game which put the Huskies by a two-score lead, which clinched the victory.

“All these guys make plays and it makes a difference,” said Luke. “Success breeds success. We didn’t get down and we didn’t hang our heads.”

They did not need to hang their heads because the Huskies came back from a four-point deficit at the 11:30 mark in the first half and never looked back.

The name of the game in the first half was not to speed up and get rattled by Ferris State’s full-court press.

“We knew coming in to this game that they are a very athletic team and want to play fast, “ said Witt. “However, we didn’t give into their pressure and we played our pace and were even able to slow them down on defense.”

The name of the game in the first half was the three-pointer. The Huskies were 5-12 from past the three-point arc. In comparison, the Bulldogs were 1-9.

“We played a inside-out offense,” Luke said. “Obviously, we want to get the ball in the paint and score that way, but if we can’t, I told them to push the ball outside and that’s what you saw tonight.”

The Huskies biggest lead was by 13 with 6:39 in the first. At halftime, the Huskies led 36-28.

The Bulldogs came out a got a quick four at the start of the second. But the Huskies were right there with them keeping a consistent lead with well-paced play. Beyond a basket here and there, the Bulldogs were hard-pressed to put any offense together.

“We played our game,” said Bilski. “We slowed things down, and they couldn’t get us out of our rhythm.”

The closest the Bulldogs got as the game clock wound down was three points at 4:35. But as planned, the Huskies did not lose their composure and rode the game out to victory. The Huskies shot 41.8 percent from the field while the Bulldogs only shot 31.9 percent.

“Everybody contributed this night and that needs to happen for us to be successful,” said Bilski.

Bilski led the scoring with 18. Witt followed with 14. White had 13 points.

Up next for the Huskies is the Lake Superior Lakers on Saturday.