Tech men pit efficient offense against Parkside

HOUGHTON – Perhaps the most impressive part of Michigan Tech guard Ben Stelzer’s school record 10 three-pointers last Saturday wasn’t the made threes themselves, but it was the ability to get 13 legitimate three-point attempts off with an entire Hillsdale defense gunning to stop him.

The Chargers threw everything they had at Stelzer – a mix of zone and man-to-man defense before ultimately switching to a box-and-one gimmick – and the junior still found space to for 13 attempts from beyond the arc.

“I just kept finding open daylight and letting her go,” Stelzer said. “They all feel really good. Anytime you get your feet you just feel it is going in.”

While the record is a testament to Stelzer’s work ethic and pure shooting ability, the mark is also a nod to the spacing coach Kevin Luke and a bevy of shooters have created on offense this season.

Through seven games, the Huskies (5-2) are averaging 80.9 points per contest with 49.6 percent shooting overall and 45.5 percent from three. They turn the ball over just 9.9 times per game and collectively sink 86 percent from the free throw line in a season where free throws have never been more important.

With the exception of overall field goal percentage, every single one of those stats is better than last year’s team – which hosted the GLIAC Tournament, made the NCAA Tournament, had GLIAC Player of the Year Ali Haidar and won 21 games, for those with short memories.

“We have scored enough to win every game,” Luke said. “I really like the way we are moving the ball. We are getting people shots and we are getting people in the right spaces with the basketball.”

“We have really good shooters all around the perimeter,” Stelzer added. “So somewhere you have an open shooter or you have Austin (Armga) with a one-on-one matchup. We will take that every day.”

On the flip side though, the wealth of shooters Tech utilizes on offense has come with holes on the defensive end.

The Huskies essentially play a four-guard lineup at all times – not by choice with injuries to forwards Kyle Stankowski and Phil Romback – leaving themselves exposed to talented forwards or post players.

Tech has allowed 80-plus points in three straight games, while opponents have shot 51 percent on the season.

“We have given up more points than I want to,” Luke said. “But we play so many players out of position, which is some of the problem. You look at Troy (Hecht), who is one of the hardest working defenders I have had in 20 years, but he has given up a lot of points, because he is playing out of position. I feel bad for those guys that we are doing it to, but that is the best decision for the program at this point.

“As long as the scoreboard is on our side at the end of the game, we are in good shape,” Luke added.

Tech closes out its non-conference and 2013 portion of the schedule today with a rematch hosting Wisconsin-Parkside.

The Huskies played the Rangers twice last season, beating them in Parkside during the regular season (69-51) and then again (86-75) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Rangers almost mirror Tech in offensive production, scoring a bit more (86.6 points per game), while turning the ball over more as well (12 times a game) and shooting virtually the same effective percentage.

And of course, they have a talented post player in Zygimantas Riauka (15.1 points per game, 60 percent shooting) to present Tech’s defense with a whole host of problems.

A win today and Tech would finish with a perfect non-conference record – a mark of distinction come NCAA Tournament selection time in March.

“That is really important to the committee,” Luke said of the non-conference record. “Parkside is 7-1, they have good balance and they play hard. if we are 4-0 in the non-conference, that is a big mark in our favor.”