CHICAGO, Ill. – The Illinois Tech men's basketball team entered Valentine's Day in a three-way tie for the final two Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference (NACC) Tournament slots with Wisconsin Lutheran College and Edgewood College, making Thursday night's home contest against Lutheran possibly the most important in Tech men's basketball's Division III era. Tech (13-11, 10-9 NACC) came out of the gate on fire and rode the momentum to a 75-66 victory over the Warriors (11-13, 9-10 NACC).
How it Happened
- Illinois Tech had its best start of a game this season, making 10 of its first 11 shot attempts and six of its first seven three-point tries. In addition, the Scarlet Hawks also grabbed 11 of the game's first 13 rebounds.
- All of the above meant a serious run to start the night, as the Scarlet Hawks led 31-14 at the 10:00 minute mark. The lead would reach as high as 20 in the first half.
- The Warriors were able to cut into the Hawk deficit before halftime by drawing fouls and forcing turnovers. While the Scarlet Hawks shot 61.5% in the first half compared to just 33.3% for WLC, Tech committed 11 fouls compared to just four for the visitors. This led to 12 Warrior free throw attempts over the first 20 minutes, 11 of which were made (91.7%). Despite 11 first half turnovers, Tech led 43-30 at the break in part thanks to an 18-9 rebounding advantage.
- The second half started off much like the first, with the Scarlet Hawks seizing control. The lead once again reached as high as 20, as Tech led 57-37 with 12:08 left to play.
- Wisconsin Lutheran appeared to settle in after Collin Kennedy, the conference's leading scorer, made a lay-up at the 10:14 mark. The basket moved Kennedy into first all-time on WLC's scoring list.
- The Kennedy basket gave the team a spark and awoke Andrew Bruggink, whom the Warriors leaned heavily on to get back into the contest. The guard scored 18 second-half points, as his scoring an a relentless press defense pulled the Warriors to as close as five (71-66) with 18 seconds to play.
- Jake Digiorgio proved his senior leadership down the stretch, making all four free throw attempts with a blocked shot sandwiched in between. His play iced the victory for Tech.
Scarlet Hawk Standouts
- Five different players scored in double-figures for Tech, with Milos Dugalic (12 points, four rebounds, three assists) leading the way in 22 minutes off the bench.
- Ahmad Muhammad also chipped in off the bench with 11 points in 28 minutes.
- Max Hisatake (10 poins, 11 rebounds, four assists, four blocks), Otis Reale (10 points, two assists), and Jake Bruns (10 points) all also scored in double-digits.
- Digiorgio took just four shots from the floor, but he recorded 8 points and 14 rebounds.
Stats to Know
- The Scarlet Hawks outshot the Warriors 51.0% to 34.3% for the game and outrebounded WLC 44-27.
- Tech assisted on 18 of its 25 made baskets.
- Turnovers were perhaps the biggest reason the game remained close, as Wisconsin Lutheran forced 27 Tech miscues.
- The regular season wraps up on Saturday in the Keating Sports Center when the Regents of Rockford come to town for a 4:15 p.m. contest. Illinois Tech trails Rockford by just one game in the conference standings.
- Saturday's contest is also Senior Day for the Scarlet Hawks.
- Live audio, video, and stats will be available. The live audio will be powered by Illinois Media School.
- A full list of NACC Tournament scenarios will be posted tomorrow. Aurora and Rockford sit in a tie for the third seed in the bracket with 11-8 conference records, while Tech and Edgewood are both 10-9 and tied for the fifth seed. Lakeland and WLC also are alive for the final two tournament spots with a 9-10 conference record.