Courtesy of MTU Athletics
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – The Michigan Tech men’s basketball team defeated Southern Indiana 75-70 in the 2014 NCAA Division II Midwest Regional on Saturday (Mar. 15) to advance to Sunday’s semifinal. The Huskies improved to 23-7 overall after defeating the Screaming Eagles for the first time in the program’s history at the O’Reilly Events Center on the campus of Drury University.
For the second year in a row, the Huskies will head to the regional semifinal. This time the Huskies will face No. 2 seed Indianapolis at 7 p.m. (ET). The Greyhounds defeated No. 7 seed Bellarmine in the second quarterfinal of the day.
Austin Armga scored the Huskies final 10 points to finish with 30 on the afternoon, his fifth 30-point game this season. First he went to the free throw line with the score knotted up at 63 to give Tech its lead back.
Ben Jones answered for USI with a deep 3-pointer to give the Eagles their first lead since the 14:42 mark.
Armga went back to work on the very next possession as he rose up over two defenders deep in the paint to give Tech its final lead of the game. The defense then forced a USI turnover and a Jason Hawke floater made it a three-point game.
USI missed a jumper on their offensive possession and Armga rebounded the ball. The Huskies used some clock and got it to their senior guard who went one-on-one with his defender, backed him down and put up a high-arcing floater that dropped through for a five-point lead with 63 seconds to go.
Jones made jumper to make it a one-possession game but Armga again pushed it back to a five-point lead with a leaning jumper from 15-feet and 20 seconds left.
Orlando Rutledge made two free throws after a loose ball foul on Tech and it was again a one-possession game with 10 seconds on the clock. Armga was fouled on the inbound pass and made both free throws to seal the win for the Huskies.
“I’m proud of the way our kids hung in their played, executed, and trusted each other,” Tech coach Kevin Luke said. “We missed some shots at the end of the first half and they got back into it but we made our free throws and took care of the ball down the stretch.”
“My teammates trust me to have the ball at the end of the game,” Armga said. “Today the double didn’t come and I was able to finish.”
Tech opened the game making four 3-pointers and holding an early 12-3 lead. USI cut it to one (14-13) after a 10-2 run of its own.
“We always stress a good start,” said Stelzer. “You have to credit the guys who were setting screens and getting us open. It seemed like they didn’t know what hit them after the quick start.”
The Huskies led for much of the first half but seven straight points by the Eagles—including five by Jones—gave the No. 3 seed a 33-29 lead at the break.
Only three players scored for Tech in the first half with Armga and Stelzer having 13. Alex Culy was also in the scoring column with an early 3-pointer.
Phil Romback was a major factor for the Huskies playing in only his 11th game of the season. He combined with Luke Heller, Troy Hecht and Kyle Stankowski to hold the Midwest Region’s Player of the Year Aaron Nelson to over four points and six rebounds below his season averages. Romback also knocked down four 3-pointers and scored a season-high nine points.
“Phil stepped up and made some plays,” added Luke. “He played a lot of minutes last year, and maybe this will propel him to do that on a nightly basis. At halftime we asked someone to step up and boy did that help.”
After Tech trailed by four with 17:53 to go, a Stelzer 3-pointer sparked a 7-2 run that put the Huskies in front.
The teams traded leads until Romback hit his first three, and Hawke nailed another on back-to-back possessions to give the No. 6 seed a 44-39 lead.
Romback’s three 2:26 later expanded the Black and Gold lead to seven, and his fourth trey gave the Huskies their largest lead of the second half at nine with 6:54 to go.
USI went on an 11-2 run in a span of 3:34 to tie the game at 63 with 3:20 to go, before Tech made its final eight shots, including four from the field and four from the field.
Hawke scored nine points, making 3-of-4 from the field. Culy finished with five points and a game-high eight rebounds to tie his career-high.
Tech shot 45.8 percent (22-for-48) from the floor and 10-for-24 (41.7 percent) from three. The Huskies also connected on 21-of-25 free throw attempts.
The Huskies and Eagles each had 32 rebounds after USI entered the game out-rebounding its opponents by 14. Each team also had fewer than 10 turnovers. Tech tied a season-low with five turnovers and went 29:24 without committing one.
USI made 45.3 percent (24-for-53) from the field and 8-for-27 (29.6 percent) from deep. The Eagles shot only 56 percent (14-for-25) from the free throw line.
Jones scored a team-high 16 points for the Eagles. Nelson finished with 15 points and six rebounds while Rutledge (15) and Gavin Schumann (12) were also in double figures.
“It’s something special to move on,” Armga added. “I know we were here last year and have the experience. I think that makes us a dangerous team.”
The semifinal game against UIndy tips off at 7 p.m. (ET) on Sunday. Mix 93.5 WKMJ or 920 AM WMPL will broadcast the game live on the radio in the Houghton area and online at Pasty.com. You can also watch it on Drury’s web stream at: http://www.drurypanthers.com/showcase/