EVANSVILLE, Ind. – Michigan Tech men’s basketball’s historic season came to a heartbreaking end Tuesday night with a 65-62 loss to Truman State (20-2) in the NCAA Division II Midwest Region Championship at Ford Center. The Huskies overcame a 10-point halftime deficit but fell just short in the final seconds, missing a chance to advance to the Elite Eight for the first time in program history.
“We came up a tad bit short,” said head coach Kevin Luke. “Truman is a really good team and I am proud of our comeback, this team, and the season as a whole. Our guys gave everything they had in every practice and every game. I asked them to go through a lot this season and they responded every time. It was an incredible effort to make it to the Region Championship this year.”
Cade McKnight made the difference for Truman State with a game high of 21 points. Owen White played an incredible second half for the Huskies and finished with 19 points, four rebounds, and two assists in the loss. Trent Bell was effective again with 12 points (4-5) and seven rebounds. Michigan Tech finished the year 15-8 overall and qualified for the NCAA Division II tournament for the 11th time.
Truman State started with a 9-2 run after the Huskies made just one of their first five shot attempts. Cade McKnight helped the Bulldogs maintain a 10-point advantage with nine points in the opening 10 minutes. The Huskies made just one 3-pointer on eight attempts and trailed 19-9 on the scoreboard with 8:19 to go in the first half.
TeeAaron Powell completed a 3-point play with a layup in the post and a subsequent left hand hook shot got Tech back to a 19-16 deficit. Still struggling on offense, the Huskies clamped down on defense to keep the Bulldogs within range 28-18 at the half. MTU shot 28-percent (7-for-25) in the first half with 17 rebounds, one block, and five turnovers.
Truman State posted slightly better statistics with 37-percent shooting (10-for-27), 19 boards, two steals, and one turnover. Powell had seven points off the bench for Michigan Tech and Eric Carl led the starters with five points and one 3-pointer. McKnight led all players in the opening 20 minutes with 13 points on 5 of 10 shooting.
Trent Bell jump started the Huskies with a three from the top of the key and the Huskies went on an 11-2 run to start the second half, closing the gap to 30-29 and a Truman State timeout. Carl dropped a triple to give Tech its first lead of the game 32-30 with 15:20 remaining. The Huskies offense continued to fire and a kick-out pass from Johnston to Bilski gave MTU a 41-32 lead with 12:28 left to play.
Bilski took a charge in the lane with 9:09 left and the Huskies stayed in front 46-42, shooting 41.2 percent in the game. The Bulldogs swung the momentum again when Turner Scott’s layup tied the score 49-49 with just over five minutes left. Dylan Peeters made a layup, but Carl immediately answered with a mid-range jump shot. The teams traded baskets as the clock ran under two minutes.
Owen White knocked in a clutch 3-point shot to give the Huskies a 58-57 edge with 1:58 to go. McKnight put TSU back on top and after a video review, but White’s made three free throws under immense pressure for a 60-59 score. McKnight went 2-2 at the line on Truman State’s next possession and Coach Luke called a timeout with 26.4 seconds remaining.
White went to the rim with a left-hand hook and drew a foul. He then made both free throws and Tech went in front 62-61 with 13.4 ticks left. Truman state dribbled over half court and took a timeout. Then McKnight scored in the paint with 4.7 seconds left. Carter Johnston in-bounded from the baseline and the ball went off of White fingertips in front of the scorer’s table and out of bounds, giving possession back to the Bulldogs with just 4.4 seconds left. Hunter Strait made a pair of free throws for Truman State and the Bulldogs qualified for the Elite Eight with a win over Michigan Tech.
The Huskies shot 44.9-percent (22-for-49) overall, including 37.5-percent (9-for-24) from 3-point range and 9-9 from the free throw line. The Bulldogs ended 45.5-percent (25-for-55) from the field with 28.6-percent of 3-pointers (4-for-14) and 11-13 free throw attempts. Truman State out-rebounded Michigan Tech 32-26, though the Huskies won the assist category 14-10. MTU committed 12 turnovers and picked off three steals. Truman State managed six steals and 10 turnovers.
Three players made it to double-figures for the Huskies, including White (19 points), Carl (13 points), and Bell (12 points). Dawson Bilski was a factor on both ends with five points, three rebounds, four assists, and two steals. Carter Johnston also passed four assists and had four points.
Truman leading scorer coming in Turner Scott posted eight points. McKnight shot 8 of 14 for 21 points, two rebounds, and one assist. Peeters scored 13 points with nine rebounds and Elijah Hazekamp had 10 points with 15 rebounds and a double-double.