NMU men’s hoops: Michigan Tech rolls over Northern 69-58

HOUGHTON – A tepid first half gave way to a smart, efficient second, and the Michigan Tech men’s basketball team cruised to a 69-58 GLIAC win over Northern Michigan in Houghton on Monday.

The 11-point margin of victory belies the flow of the game as the Huskies led by 24 points with five minutes remaining when Tech coach Kevin Luke pulled all his starters and went deep into his bench.

Tech allowed just 14 points in the first 14 minutes of the second half, while the hosts kept working for good shots on offense to steadily increase their lead. Alex Culy, Ben Stelzer, Jordan Chartier, Jason Hawke and Phil Romback all hit threes and a Northern team in transition under first-year coach Bill Sall couldn’t keep up with the rhythmic ball movement.

“It’s a staple of our offense this year. We love to share the ball,” Culy said. “You see it with everybody.”

It was a tad bittersweet for the senior Culy watching the last seconds tick off in his final home game against Northern. Culy went 4-0 against the Wildcats at home in his career and won six of the seven (with one still to play) overall.

“Honestly, it was my last Tech-Northern game ever at home – it’s the kind of things you are thinking about on the bench – and I wish could have been in there a little longer,” Culy said. “I’m just taking it in with Austin (Armga), Troy, Heller and Ben, and you know, we are a pretty close group, and I think we are pretty proud of the way we played in the second half.”

There were several exclamation points for Culy and Armga, the team’s only seniors, to remember the game by.

Stelzer brought some early energy that was missing to start the second half with a pull-up 3-pointer from the NCAA logo (well past NBA range).

Armga later combined with Hawke on a fast break (layup) alley-oop that got the crowd of 1,422 on their feet and gave the Huskies a 15-point lead with 10 minutes remaining in the game.

“All we talked about was getting the energy up and start making some passes,” Luke said of the second half. “I think we did both of those things pretty well.”

The Huskies led just 32-29 after the first half as the brutal loss Saturday against Lake Superior State and the third game in five days showed in their legs.

The experienced squad regrouped before it became a true problem though.

“I came into the night thinking this was going to be one of the toughest games we had played in a while because (Saturday’s loss) hurt. That one was tough,” Culy said. “We got through it eventually though.”

The first half did see one hurdle successfully cleared as Armga knocked down his first six free throws (eight of nine for the night) to lead the team with eight points at intermission.