Tech shoot by Rangers
HOUGHTON – Shooting cures all woes.
The Michigan Tech men’s basketball team allowed way too much penetration defensively Saturday, stagnated on offense for chunks of the game and nearly allowed Wisconsin-Parkside to pull a massive upset at the SDC after Tech took an early 23-point lead in the first half.
The Rangers grabbed more offensive rebounds, shot more free throws and turned the ball over fewer times.
But the Huskies shot 14-of-21 from three-point range and 55 percent from the field overall.
And in basketball, little else matters if you can shoot like that.
Tech grabbed an important 83-79 win over the visitors thanks to the 14-made threes and headed in to an 11-day winter break with a 6-2 record and perfect mark in non-conference play.
If the Huskies are on the border for NCAA Tournament selection come March, this in-region, non-conference win could loom large.
“There is living proof that if you can shoot you still have a chance,” Tech coach Kevin Luke said. “And don’t get me wrong, I’m happy with this win because (Parkside) is a good club. But when we come back from break we have to practice defense hard. We have to make a bigger emphasis on defense to stop them.”
Tech took Luke’s emphasis for a hot start Saturday literally, and came out on fire.
Jason Hawke, Ben Stelzer, Jordan Chartier and Alex Culy combined to go 8-of-12 from beyond the arc, building a 39-16 lead with just under five minutes remaining in the first half.
It looked easy as can be, with the ball zipping around the perimeter to open shooters and the shooters made Parkside pay for an inch too much of space.
“I didn’t realize we shot that well,” Stelzer, who finished with 18 points on 5-of-11 shooting said. “We were just playing and moving the ball.”
With the 23-point lead, the Huskies minds may have wandered to their pending break a little too soon.
Parkside cut the lead to 11-points at half, going on a 13-1 run into intermission.
The Rangers continued to play with that desperate energy in the second-half, trailing by four with 1:14 to play, but Tech was able to seal the game from the free throw line.
Each time Parkside made a second half run – benefitting from 42 points in the paint – the Huskies were able to answer with a three.
“It is a lesson that has to be learned by all,” Luke said. “Credit Parkside for not quitting. However, we let the foot off the gas. We stopped defending, we stopped screening on offense and we let them back in the game.
“Everybody has that tendency to let up a bit. But that has to be corrected,” Stelzer said.
On the plus side, Tech’s offense continued its natural evolution Saturday, with Jason Hawke pumping in a career-high 19 points and Chariter chipping in 12 to take some pressure off Stelzer and Austin Armga (19 points).
After watching Stelzer drop 10 threes on Hillsdale last Saturday, Parkside harried, tugged and pulled the junior in every way possible to prevent that from happening again.
Stelzer took advantage of the defensive overplay to dish six assists, prominently to Hawke (7-of-9 shooting) and Chartier (4-of-6 threes).
Hawke in particular shined, leading the team with 12 points in the first half as he was allowed space on the perimeter to shoot or make a move past his defender.
“With all the attention defenses pay to Ben and Austin, the rest of us have to hit shots to make them pay,” Hawke said. “I got in a groove early today.”