Courtesy of MTU Athletics
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Ben Stelzer’s 32 second half points carried the Michigan Tech men’s basketball team to its first-ever NCAA Division II Midwest Regional Championship game. The Huskies defeated No. 12-ranked Indianapolis 82-76 on Sunday (Mar. 16) at the O’Reilly Events Center on the campus of Drury University to propel the Black and Gold into uncharted territories.
“To be in the tournament is an honor and to be in the regional championship is a sweet honor,” Tech coach Kevin Luke said. “It’s huge for our program.
“We’ve had some excellent teams in my 20 years. The old timers built the foundation and these guys are taking it a step further. I’m excited and proud of this team.”
The Huskies improved to 24-7 overall and will play top-seeded, and No. 8 ranked, Drury on Tuesday (Mar. 18) at 8 p.m. (ET).
“It’s a dream come true and it feels great, especially being a team leader,” senior Austin Armga said. “Everybody’s in it together and we’re just really excited.”
The Huskies trailed 52-51 with 7:37 to go. Stelzer then caught fire, after missing six of his first seven shots, and scored Tech’s next 21 points, including 25 of the final 29 Husky points.
“It was a little frustrating in the first half,” Stelzer said. “The shot felt good the whole time. We just had to keep screening and sticking to our systems. They started to fall and it started to build.”
He opened the run with a 3-pointer to give Tech its final lead of the game with 7:02 left. UIndy missed a shot before Stelzer nailed a deep two-pointer to make it a four-point game.
The Greyhounds made a free throw on their offensive possession, before number five in black went back to work with a back door layup from Luke Heller and a five-point lead with 5:53 on the clock.
After UIndy hit a jumper, Stelzer got by his defender and finished in the lane and then picked up a steal on the defensive possession and called a timeout. He nailed a wide open three in front of the Tech bench after a miscommunication on a defensive switch and then hit one from five feet beyond the arc after another UIndy turnover.
The Huskies lead was 10, their largest of the half to that point with 4:12 to go.
UIndy (24-5) cut the margin to four with 2:13 to go after a four-point play by Jordan Loyd and a pair of free throws by Reece Cheatham.
From there Stelzer made 10 free throws while Jordan Chartier added four and the Huskies were able to back off as the Greyhounds nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer for the finial six-point margin.
Armga carried the scoring load in the first half with 15 points. He scored the first seven for Tech as the Huskies led 9-2 4:27 into the game after a layup by Heller.
Kyle Stankowski checked into the game early in the first half and scored five straight Husky points for a 15-9 lead with 12:34 before halftime.
A 9-0 Husky run with points from Alex Culy and Armga gave Tech its largest lead in the first half at 12. UIndy cut into the margin before the break, making it 33-29.
The Huskies hit only 2-for-11 from three in the first half but held the Greyhounds to 36 percent shooting.
Early in the second half, Indianapolis began to chip away behind the play of Cheatham who hit five 3-pointers in a span of 3:25. The Greyhounds took their first lead of the game with 13:45 to go after a dunk by Brennan McElroy.
The two teams traded leads before Stelzer took over.
Stelzer’s 32 points came on 8-for-14 shooting, including 4-for-9 from three and 12-for-12 from the free throw line. He was scoreless in the first half.
Armga finished with 19 points and nine rebounds. Stankowski scored a career-high 15 points, making all seven of his shots, and pulling down four rebounds.
“I thought Kyle really came in today and wasn’t just a player but a major competitor,” said Luke. “He was really good for us. If somebody steps up to be another option on offense that gives us a little bit of a cushion.”
Culy (5), Jason Hawke (5), Chartier (4) and Heller (2) also entered the scoring column. Heller added six rebounds while Culy and Chartier dished out three assists each. Culy also had three steals.
Tech shot 48.1 percent (26-for-54) from the field and 7-for-22 (31.8 percent) from three. At the free throw line, the Huskies made 23-of-29 for 79.3 percent. The Huskies also controlled the boards 38-35, including a 22-17 advantage in the second half.
Indianapolis—who was the No. 2 seed—got 30 points from Cheatham after eight 3-pointers. Tyrae Robinson (12) and Kendall Vieke (10) were also in double figures for the Greyhounds who shot 42.4 percent (25-for-59) from the field. They also made 12 3-pointers.
The regional championship game tips off at 8 p.m. (ET) on Tuesday. Mix 93.5 WKMJ will broadcast the game live on the radio in the Houghton area and online at Pasty.com. You can also watch it live on Drury’s web stream at: http://www.drurypanthers.com/showcase/
“Drury was the best team in the country last year and they put good a good waxing on us in the semifinal,” said Luke. “We respect them and look forward to the opportunity.
“We’re going to come and play hard and leave everything on the court. This group is not willing to be done yet. I don’t think we played that well tonight and we can still get a little bit better.”