Courtesy of MTU Athletics
HOUGHTON, Mich. – On the night when he scored his 1,000th career point, Ben Stelzer caught fire, scoring a career-high 34 points, to carry the Michigan Tech men’s basketball team to a 78-72 win over Grand Valley State on Wednesday (March 5) at the SDC Gym. The win advances the Huskies to the GLIAC Tournament Semifinals on Saturday (March 8) against Malone.
With the Huskies down four with 4:00 remaining, Stelzer nailed back-to-back, step-back jumpers to even it up at 69.
The Lakers answered on the other end to regain the lead after an offensive rebound and stick back, but Stelzer buried a cold-blooded 3-pointer—his eighth of the game—to push the lead back into the home team’s favor.
Tech was whistled for a four with 61 seconds left, and Darren Kapustka converted on 1-of-2 attempts from the free throw line to knot it up at 72.
Tech coach Kevin Luke called for a clear out and put the ball in the hands of senior guard Austin Armga who hit a pull-up jumper on the left side to give the Huskies their final lead of the game with 46 seconds to go.
On the very next play, Armga jumped on a loose ball and got a jump ball whistle with the possession arrow in Tech’s favor.
The Huskies inbounded the ball to Stelzer who calmly knocked down two free throws to extend the lead to four. The Lakers missed two threes on their offensive end and were again forced to foul Stelzer who made two more free throws to set to a new career high and seal the win for the Huskies.
“Ben put us on his shoulders and hit shot after shot tonight,” Luke said. “He’s the kind of guy you want to go to battle with.”
The Lakers were down by 12 early in the second half but used a 13-4 run to cut the margin to three with 14:11 on the clock.
They continued to chip away and tied it up at 58 with 8:38 to go. GVSU took its first lead of the second half after an old-fashioned three-point play by Ricardo Carbajal. Chaz Rollins then added to the lead with a layup.
The lead remained four before Stelzer unleashed in the final 4:00.
“It’s a team game, but Ben put us on his back tonight,” Armga said. “That was so fun to watch and be a part of.”
Tech led 44-34 at the break. Stelzer opened the game making three 3-pointers in an 80-second span to give the Huskies an early lead. His first basket of the game made him the 27th player in Tech men’s basketball history to reach the 1,000 point mark.
Rollins carried the scoring load for the Lakers in the first half, making all three of his shots from the field and all four from the charity stripe.
“It was such a physical game,” added Luke.” That was a big boys game. It was as physical of a game as we’ve been in all year.”
Tech shot 48.1 percent (26-for-54) in the game and made 10-for-20 from beyond the arc. At the free throw line, the Huskies were 16-for-18 (88.9 percent).
Armga finished with 14 points while Jason Hawke added 10. Luke Heller tallied six points and five rebounds while Alex Culy had five points, three assists and two steals.
GVSU (19-8) made 44.6 percent (25-for-56) of its shots from the field. Rollins (16), Luke Ryskamp (11), Rob Woodson (11), Kapustka (10) and Carbajal (10) were all in double figures for the Lakers.
“It means everything to get this win, especially for our seniors,” Luke said. “Those two guys have led us and carried us all year. The senior leadership was awesome and it’s great to get a win in their final game here.”
Tech advances to play Malone who upset top-seeded Lake Superior State. The two will meet at 3 p.m. in Findlay, Ohio on Saturday. The Huskies defeated the Pioneers 81-55 on Dec. 5 at the SDC Gym.