Courtesy of MTU Athletics
HOUGHTON, Mich. — T.J. Brown‘s layup as the buzzer sounded gave Michigan Tech a 79-78 men’s basketball victory over Lake Superior State in a wild finish at the SDC Gym today. The lead changed hands twice in the final two seconds after the Lakers’ Derek Kinney buried a 3-pointer with 1.6 showing on the clock. Ben Stelzer grabbed the ball from the net, signalled Brown to go long and hit him in stride with a 70-foot pass for the game winner.
“I still can’t believe that just happened,” said Brown. “We said in the huddle that if they made a shot, I’d go long. Ben made a great pass to get me the ball.”
Brown collected the pass, took two steps and laid it in for his only field goal of the game. The horn sounded as the ball was falling through the net.
“I don’t know what to say,” said head coach Kevin Luke. “That’s heads up basketball. Great presence by those two players to recognize the situation and execute that play.”
Tech led by eight at the 4:18 mark before the Lakers began their comeback. Cameron Metz’s layup at the 2:32 mark pulled the visitors within 72-69.
Nearly two minutes went by before Ali Haidar made two free throws to push the lead back to five with 0:52 showing. LSSU hit two 3-pointers sandwiched around two Stelzer free throws to get within 76-75 with 24 seconds left.
Haidar went to the line with 0:15 showing and a chance to push the lead to three. He missed the first, but made the second—his school-record-tying 18th of the game—to make the score 77-75.
Alex Culy nearly had a steal on the ensuing Lakers possession, but the ball wound up in Kinney’s hands, and the senior made his second 3-pointer of the season to put LSSU up 78-77.
With some of the Lakers celebrating the go-ahead basket, Brown was able to get behind the defense. Stelzer, who was a high school quarterback, put the pass on the numbers for the game winner.
“It was a kind of a seam route,” said Stelzer.
Aside from the final sequence, the story of the game was Haidar, who poured in 36 points for his eighth 30-point game of the year. The senior tied the school records for free throw makes (18) and attempts (20) in a game and surpassed a 40-year-old record for free throws made in a season (173).
Stelzer finished with 17 points. Brown had just two free throws in addition to his game-winning basket.
LSSU used a balanced attack with five players in double figures. Metz had 19 points. Kinney finished with 15 points and a game-high eight rebounds.
Tech went 28-for-33 (85 percent) at the foul line to make up for eight fewer made field goals. The Lakers bombed in 11-of-20 3-point attempts and held a 25-21 rebounding edge in the game. The visitors were whistled for 27 fouls, however.
“We knew it was going to be a physical game,” said Luke. “We did a pretty good job moving the basketball especially in the first half.”
Michigan Tech improved to 18-7 overall and 15-6 in GLIAC play with the win. LSSU is now 13-12 overall and 10-11 in league action. The Huskies will have a week off before hosting rival Northern Michigan at the SDC Gym next Saturday (Mar. 2) in the regular season finale.