Huskies host GLIAC’s big stage
HOUGHTON – Minutes after the Michigan Tech men’s basketball team fought off Northwood for a 90-80 overtime victory in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament quarterfinals Wednesday, the Huskies sat tensed in their locker room, hunched over an assortment of iPhones and Droids, waiting to hear on the results of the Lake Superior State at Wayne State game.
If Wayne won, Tech would travel to Detroit for the GLIAC semifinals.
But if the Warriors lost – at home, for the second straight time to No. 8 seed Lake State – the Huskies would host the semis and finals at the Student Development Complex for the first time since 2003.
Wayne got up two shot attempts on its final possession, one for the win and another to tie.
Neither went down. And the Lakers escaped with a 70-68 upset of the top-seeded GLIAC team.
“Like four of our guys had it on their phones,” Tech point guard Alex Culy said. “You just started hearing, ‘We did it, we did it! Yeah!’ It was awesome. Then we all went out to the (women’s game) to listen to the P.A. guy announce it to the fans.”
Thus South Division champ Findlay will make the double-digit hour bus trek to Houghton to try and defend its tournament championship Saturday at 1 p.m. Lake Superior State and Grand Valley will decide the other finalist at 3 p.m. Saturday before the finals take place Sunday at 2.
“I had to sit here two years ago and watch the girls host the (NCAA) Regionals and I was so jealous, I wanted it so bad,” Culy said. “To be able to finally get one of those is very special.”
The home court has been more than special for Tech this season, with the Huskies boasting a 12-1 record in Houghton while they are just 8-6 away from the SDC.
The advantage has proven significant offensively as the Huskies shoot four percent better in their own gym – including a seven percent bump from three-point range – and score over five points more per game.
Michigan Tech coach Kevin Luke believes playing in Houghton likely made the difference in Wednesday’s back-and-forth, overtime thriller.
“It is that overall comfort level,” Culy said. “You are at home, you are sleeping in your own bed, you get the recovery that you need the night before, you can choose what you eat, you can stick to your own schedule. And then obviously you get the extra help from the fans. We have the best fans in the country.”
Tech scored its first signature win of the season 66-49 over Findlay – where else, at the SDC – back in early December, making it their second victory in a row over the Oilers.
While two straight wins may not seem like much, Luke considers it a beneficial boon considering the Huskies had previously lost 13 straight games to Findlay.
“They have been one of the top programs in this conference for some time and have won a national championship,” Luke said. “We will take any advantage we can get.”
What Ali Haidar is to the Huskies, so is forward Greg Kahlig (17.2 points per game, 49/45/84 shooting) to the Oilers.
Tech shut down Kahlig in December, utilizing a four-guard lineup with T.J. Brown as a starter to hold Kahlig to a season-low four points. The junior forward has registered 16-straight double-digit point games since then.
The performance on Kahlig was all the more impressive as the 6-foot-6 shooter fits the stretch-forward mold that has plagued Tech all season (e.g. Wes Wilcox Wednesday).
Although Luke would not divulge any specifics, he said a four-guard lineup was likely to occur once again.
“(Kahlig) is going to be an all-conference performer,” Luke said. “And we have to have the same type of effort whether it is T.J. or Troy (Hecht). You can’t beat them without good effort anyways, so it starts there. you have to have vision and know where the ball is and be there on the catch.”