Guard depth key to success of Husky offense

HOUGHTON – There are few superlatives left anymore to describe the whirling machine the Michigan Tech men’s basketball offense has become.

The Huskies lead the GLIAC in field goal percentage, and the entire country in three-point and free throw percentage. They turn it over just 9.8 times per game – also, best in the conference.

They shoot more threes per game than all but two GLIAC teams, and do so at an astounding 45.3 percent clip.

Hillsdale, the No. 2 team in three-point percentage at 39.8 percent, is closer to No. 12 Grand Valley than they are to Tech.

They boast the league’s leading scorer in Austin Armga and the league’s best three-point shooter in Ben Stelzer.

The list could keep going, but at a certain point, it gets redundant.

“We are in rhythm right now,” Luke said. “When we are in rhythm and we are swinging the ball side to side, man, there are not many teams that can stay that sharp defensively, because our offense is that sharp. I watched our game tape from (the weekend) and there was some awesome screening and moving going on.”

Perhaps the one unexplored element of the Husky offense has been their consistency.

The Huskies have shot worse than 40 percent from beyond the arc just once in the last 12 games. They have not shot under 40 percent from the field even once this year.

This stems, in large part, from an ability to get good looks all 40 minutes of the game. There is no dip in production when Luke goes to his bench.

Whether it is senior Alex Culy at the point, or backup Jordan Chartier, the Tech offense just keeps humming.

“It is an awesome situation,” Luke said. “They are equally as effective. You can play them together or apart, it doesn’t matter.”

Chartier’s numbers don’t jump off the chart at first glance.

The sophomore is good for 5.5 points per game and leads the team in assist-to-turnover ratio with a sparkling 3.3 mark.

But the efficiency is right in line with the rest of the team, as Chartier knocks down 42.3 percent of his threes (on 3.4 attempts per game) to go with 81.2 percent of his free throws.

He is also part of the crucial group – Chartier, Culy, Jason Hawke and Troy Hecht – that keep the spacing open to make teams pay for double-teaming Armga or over-shadowing Stelzer.

“It has just been seamless,” Culy said. “He is kind of like a mini-me, that’s what it feels like. He is like a little brother to me. We kind of play similarly. He’s smart, sees the floor well, is a very good shooter. It’s huge having that coming off the bench.”

Chartier propped up a poor shooting game from Armga at Ferris State last Thursday, chipping in 11 points (on four shots) with a pair of key steals and assists.

It is the exact type of performance Luke has come to expect from the U.P. native when the team needs it.

Chartier hit a game-winning three at Northwood last season, and combined with Hecht to limit and fluster Timberwolves leading scorer Wes Wilcox in the 82-57 thrashing of NU at the SDC this year.

“I’m just trying to play my role,” Chartier said. “We know teams are going to single out Austin and Ben, so when they are having an off game, its us other guys who need to step up and hit shots. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of that this season.”

“He hasn’t been a surprise because we thought he was really good. And he is really good. It’s just that simple,” Luke added.

With North Division teams well-versed in each others strengths and weaknesses – “I feel like I could run the plays for Wayne State by this point,” Culy joked – the less-exposed players make a big difference.

It was Chartier against Ferris and then Hawke’s 20 points off the bench that helped the Huskies to their first regular season win at Grand Valley since 2003.

With the Huskies still vying for a North Division title – Lake Superior leads by two games, with one still to play against Tech – and another appearance in the NCAA Tournament, Luke will need more of the same from Chartier and Co. down the stretch.

“We are comfortable with any of those guys in there, at any point in the game,” Luke said. “It’s made my job a lot easier this year.”