Huskies tuning ‘D’ to stop top scorers

HOUGHTON – In the short start to the season, there is already a long list of scorers who have gotten theirs against the Michigan Tech men’s basketball team.

The Huskies have given up 30-plus to individuals three times this year, and 20-plus to a trio of players in another three games.

While coach Kevin Luke isn’t overly concerned – Tech is 6-2 after all – it is a trend he would like to see slowed down.

That task will not come much easier today and Saturday as Ohio Dominican brings in dynamic sophomore Mark Minch, averaging 20 points per game on 52.7 percent shooting while the Huskies will try and contain Tiffin’s Joe Graessle Saturday, the league’s third-leading scorer at 23 ppg.

Both fit into the mold that has given Tech fits, able to reach the lane with ease and score from a variety of angles.

“Both of them can put a lot of points on the board. There is a special emphasis on both those guys trying to stop them,” Luke said. “And they are looking to penetrate first. They can shoot it, but they look to get to the rim first.”

While it is mostly guards and talented small forwards scoring in bunches against the Huskies, Luke believes the trouble actually stems from inconsistent post defense.

The more help the guards have to give the post players – or to “dig” in Tech’s terminology – the more exposed they leave themselves on the perimeter.

Wisconsin-Parkside’s Andy Mazurczak took advantage of that for 28 points in the Huskies last win, with his defender, Alex Culy, in overhelp mode.

The same issue cropped up in a loss to Walsh the first week of December as well.

“Every time I have watched the tape, and I have watched them multiple times now, we are not that far off,” Luke said. “The tapes aren’t lying. We are just not post defending right now. I don’t want to spend a lot of time helping in the post – though I know there are some guys we are going to have to do that on. But I don’t want to do it on everybody.

“It has been a try and pick your poison type thing.”

Per usual, much of the issue comes down to the size tradeoff the Huskies are making by playing Troy Hecht and Luke Heller out of position.

To address that, the staff is determined to give true freshman Quintan Harris a longer look against Ohio Dominican than the freshman has gotten so far.

The 6-foot-8, 260 pound center has played just 22 minutes total this season, with a high of seven against Parkside. Harris may start today, and will certainly be in the rotation to begin the game.

The freshman must prove that he is a threat to score when on the court, however, as the Huskies’ electric offense depends on a balanced floor to give guards Austin Armga and Ben Stelzer room to operate.

“We are trying to make it look like an actual GLIAC team,” Luke joked. “Really, we are just going to try and get ‘Q’ some more minutes, see if he can help us out.”

On the plus-side, the Huskies have more than held their own rebounding with the small lineup.

Tech is allowing 8.4 offensive rebounds per game while grabbing 8.1 themselves.

That is a crucial area to play to a stalemate with Tech often throwing out a five-guard look – Stelzer, Armga, Culy, Hecht and Jason Hawke – against Hillsdale and Parkside.

That success will be put to the test as well today with ODU bringing in an offensive-rebounding beast in forward Trent Weaver, with the sophomore grabbing more than four offensive boards a game.

“For being small, we are not getting beat that bad. We have even won a couple of the battles,” Luke said. “I figure if we can stay even with those groups, we have a great chance.”