HOUGHTON - Michigan Tech earned benefits both tangible and intangible from its 72-48 victory over Northern Michigan University on Saturday at the SDC Gym in Houghton.
The Huskies gained revenge and a split in the season series with their rivals and, thanks to some outside help, a share of the GLIAC regular season men's basketball championship.
When the Huskies took care of the ball, their offense proved unstoppable. Tech shot a blistering 75 percent (15-for-20) in the first half, but led by only eight because of eight turnovers.
TJ Cameron (1) of Northern Michigan University attempts a shot while teammate Joe Simon (44) of Marquette and Michigan Tech’s (Austin Armga (1) and Ali Haidar (34) look on during GLIAC action in Houghton on Saturday. NMU lost, 72-48. (Houghton Mining Gazette photo by David Archambeau)
Though Tech's percentage dropped to a mere 56 percent (14-for-25) after half, the Huskies had only three turnovers and turned the game into a blowout.
"I think, to our guys' credit, they were ready ... we treated it much more like a rivalry game," Huskies coach Kevin Luke said.
The Huskies (19-7, 16-6 GLIAC) never trailed, but the Wildcats issued a strong challenge throughout the first half. T.J. Cameron (10 points) was a perfect 4-for-4 from the field and Matthew Craggs added eight more on 4-of-5 shooting as NMU closed from nine to two with 6:43 to play.
Tech surged to close the half, including a poster-quality, alley-oop dunk from T.J. Brown to Ali Haidar, both seniors. The lead grew to 11 before settling at eight.
Coming out of the break, the Huskies made their finishing move.
Tech scored on its first four possessions, while NMU went 1-for-6 from the field in the first five minutes as the difference reached 15 and grew from there.
Wildcats coach Doug Lewis pointed to the early second half as the point in which the game got out of control.
"We couldn't get stops in the first four or five possessions," he said.
"(The Huskies) did a good job executing. Against a good team you can't have breakdowns."
Haidar finished with another double-double in his final regular-season game at the SDC Gym: 17 points (on 7-of-9 shooting) and 10 rebounds, game highs in both categories. Austin Armga added 15 points.
For the Wildcats, Cameron was high scorer with 15. Craggs added 12.
NMU finishes its season with a record of 5-21, 4-18 in GLIAC play.
"Nobody quit. They come to practice and play hard every day. They come to the games and give me their all. They're a good group of guys and they didn't quit," Lewis said.
Tech got some assistance from its other U.P. neighbor, Lake Superior State. The Lakers' 72-70 defeat of Wayne State at Sault Ste. Marie created a three-way tie atop the GLIAC standings involving Tech, Wayne and South Division champ Findlay.
Due to the league's complicated system for breaking inter-divisional ties, Wayne will be the top seed for the league tournament starting Wednesday.
The Huskies, who won their first GLIAC men's hoops title since 2003, will be the second seed and host a quarterfinal game Wednesday at the SDC Gym. All three are GLIAC Champions.
Luke said the Huskies treated Saturday's game as a playoff dress rehearsal.
"Most importantly, in our last regular season game, it was great for our seniors to have a good performance against Northern Michigan," he said.