NCAA Tournament run over for Tech

Courtesy of MTU Athletics

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – The Michigan Tech men’s basketball team had its tournament run come to an end as the No. 6 seeded Huskies fell 71-57 to top seed and No. 8-ranked Drury. Tech—playing in its first-ever NCAA Midwest Regional Championship Game—ended its season with a 24-8 record.

For the second year in a row, the Panthers ended the Huskies season, and for the second year in a row, Drury will head to the Elite Eight where they were crowned National Champions a year ago. The Panthers also extended its winning streak to 26 games at the O’Reilly Events Center and are now 28-3 overall.

“I’m extremely proud of our effort,” Tech coach Kevin Luke said. “We’re clearing disappointed that our season ended tonight, but we lost to a very good team.

“We played well enough to be in there. We turned the ball over a little bit but credit Drury and their defense and their ability to protect their home court. They’re well coached and disciplined and they know what has to be done in crunch time.”

After ending the first half on a scoreless streak that spanned 4:33, the Huskies stormed out of the gates in the second, scoring 10 of the first 13 points and taking its largest lead of the game at five with 16:48 remaining.

“We knew we had to come out strong in the second half,” Austin Armga said. “We just couldn’t sustain it.”

Alex Culy buried a 3-pointer 13 seconds into the half to begin the run. After a Drury miss, Luke Heller found Stelzer wide open on a back cut for a layup. Armga and Luke Heller also added layups and Stelzer nailed a 3-pointer in the run.

Ben Stelzer added, “Early in the second half, we got a few back doors and was taken whatever the defense was giving. We set good screens and took care of the ball.”

Drury regained the lead after going on a 7-0 run, but an old-fashioned three-point play by Phil Romback put Tech back in front with 13:09 left. The Panthers then made back-to-back 3-pointers to take a four-point lead with 10:51 on the clock.

The Panthers led by one (50-49) after Jason Hawke buried a triple, but Lonnie Boga answered with a trey of his own.

The home team extended the lead to six after two free throws by Drake Patterson but a pull-up 3-pointer by Armga cut it back to three with 3:31 on the clock.

Drury then started to take control going on a 9-0 run that was sparked by a Patterson layup to stretch it to five (57-52).

On the next Husky possession, Tech worked the ball around to Armga who missed a leaner off the glass. Cameron Adams made 1-of-2 from the free throw line, Stelzer missed a three with 2:12 to go and Kameron Bundy made a pair for an eight-point lead.

After an offensive foul on Tech with 1:51 to go, Ian Carter scored inside for a 10-point lead as the 2,332 fans at the O’Reilly Events Center could sense a victory.

Tech missed its next four shots and had to resort to fouling, as the Panthers buried 12 free throws down the stretch and the Huskies missed eight of their last nine shots.

“We had good looks we just couldn’t make shots,” added Luke. “At the end we had to start fouling and they’re going to make their free throws.”

Drury advances to play West Liberty (West Virginia) at the Ford Center in Evansville, Ind. on Mar. 26.

A Stelzer three opened the game’s scoring as the Huskies made their first three shots and led 5-2 early. Drury then scored five straight to take the lead.

Jordan Chartier‘s three with 5:31 to go before the break again put Tech in front, but Tech’s last points of the half came 58 seconds later on a back door layup from Heller.

There were five ties and five lead changes in the opening half with the Panthers heading to the locker room with a 33-29 advantage. Tech shot 48 percent in the first 20 minutes of play and got 11 points from Stelzer. Drury made 54.2 percent from the field, including 5-for-7 from three.

Tech finished the game shooting 43.4 percent (23-for-53) from the field and 10-for-35 (28.6 percent) from three. The Huskies attempted only two free throws.

Armga and Stelzer were named to the Midwest Region All-Tournament Team and led the Huskies in scoring. Stelzer finished with 18 points and six rebounds. Armga—playing in his final game in the Black and Gold uniform—scored 13 points and added five rebounds and three assists.

Culy—Tech’s other senior—scored nine points on three 3-pointers and dished out five assists. Hawke (7), Heller (4), Chartier (3) and Romback (3) were also in the scoring column.

The Panthers buried 52.4 percent (22-for-42) of its shots, 53.3 percent (8-for-15) from deep and 82.6 percent (19-for-23) from the charity stripe.

Drury’s Bundy was named the tournament’s MVP and scored a game-high 24 points on 7-for-12 shooting, including 4-for-5 from beyond the arc. He also had six assists. Adams (18) and Drake Patterson (12) were also in double figures for the Panthers.

Tech’s 24 wins are the most since the 2002-03 season.

“We just kept building and building after having only nine wins my first year here,” Culy said. “Winning 24 games this year and getting this deep in the tournament is something. I can’t even begin to describe it.

“Those banners that we’re responsible for in the rafters of the SDC Gym, those aren’t coming down. We’ll be able to come back in 10, 20, 30 years and show our families and kids what we did.”

“We’re extremely proud of what we’ve done with this program and where it is right now. We know these guys are going to keep pushing because it’s in good hands.”