Huskies hit ‘crunch time’ in GLIAC schedule starting Thursday

David Archambeau/Daily Mining Gazette Michigan Tech’s Bryan Heath looks for an opening during a game against Davenport earlier this season at the Wood Gym.

HOUGHTON — It is crunch time this weekend for the Michigan Tech Huskies men’s basketball team as they head into the last seven games of the regular season. At 10-10 overall and 5-8 conference, coach Kevin Luke said Tuesday that it is time to grind it out and push through towards March and hopefully postseason play.

Thursday, Tech will face the Northwood Timberwolves (10-11 overall, 7-6 GLIAC) for the second time in conference play. The Huskies lost to them earlier in the season on the road 75-70.

On Saturday, the Huskies are looking to sweep their series against the Saginaw Valley State Cardinals (7-14 overall, 3-10 GLIAC) as they come into the Wood Gym. The Huskies defeated them 61-56 in late November.

The Huskies enter into this weekend series with a 75-67 win a week ago against Purdue Northwest and a 82-74 loss on Saturday to Wisconsin-Parkside.

For Luke, a win on Thursday and a loss two days later has become an all-too-familiar pattern. It was the fourth time this win-loss split has happened this season.

“This playing well the first night and not as well the second night seems to be a theme of ours,” he said. “I’ve come to realize that getting over this is going to take the whole season if not longer. We play hard; we work hard, and when I watch film to correct the mistakes we are making, I’m realizing it’s going to time.”

He added that a couple of key injuries and having a younger squad of players makes things tough at times.

“We have to use second and third options, who are being asked at times to step up in to first-option roles,” he said. “And that is not always easy, but we are making progress.”

Certainly a bright spot in the win against Purdue was the fact that the Huskies overcame an 18-point deficit at halftime to win the game. Five Michigan Tech players scored in double figures that night as well.

On Saturday, freshman TeeAaron Powell poured in a career-high 27 points. The 6-foot-9 forward typically averages around five points per game. In that game the Huskies, almost pulled off another stunner as they were down by 15 points at half and got within five points of tying the game against Parkside with less than a minute left on the clock. However they could not finish their come-from-behind run.

“We battled back, but we don’t have a ‘go-to guy’ yet who can finish the game,” said Luke. “TeeAaron was great and some of our younger players are getting it as well.”

Luke also noted that in the both of last week’s games, his team scored more than 50 points in the second half alone.

“We need some of that in the first half,” he said. “We need to be able to compete at a higher level right from the start.”

According to Luke the key, to the battle against Northwood will be to defend against the ball screen.

“That was our downfall when we first played them at their place,” he said. “We will have to slow them down and shore that up.”

The Timberwolves are averaging 77 points per game. They are led by two 6-foot-2 shooting guards Alec Marty and Trey McBride. Marty averages 14.9 points per game while McBride has 14.1 points per game.

While the Huskies already have a victory against Saginaw Valley, Luke is taking this home game with them lightly.

Saginaw is led by their freshman guard Myles Belyeau who averages 17.7 points per game. He is followed by Darnell Hoskins who has 15.2 points per game.

“It was early in the season when we played both these teams,” said Luke. “A lot has changed. We’ve gotten better, and they are better, so it should make for a good weekend of basketball.”