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Thoughts on Tech-Findlay (men's version)

February 3, 2012 - Michael Bleach
It is 1 a.m., I have to be at work in six hours and I cannot fall asleep because my mind is a tumbling around with thoughts of men much larger than me trying to put a ball through a hoop.

Make your judgments as you will.

Here are some thoughts, in no particular order, on the Michigan Tech men’s basketball 70-56 win over Findlay Thursday:

1. That was, by far, the most impressive performance of the season to date for the Huskies.

My game recap — which will be posted later this afternoon — goes into this in more detail, but that was the first time Tech had defeated Findlay since 2004 over a span of 13 games.

Tech opened the game with great energy, but in underdog situations like that, it should be easy to find that edge. Much more impressive was the composure and mental focus they displayed, not letting their emotions get the best of them.

2. That mental focus was particularly noteworthy on defense.

The Huskies, frankly, are limited athletically.* And it has bitten them all season long with dribble penetration and late help side rotations to cut that penetration off. If coach Kevin Luke already wasn’t on the follicley-challenged side, he would have torn out clumps of his hair long ago.

*Obviously this is relative. The Huskies roster look like Greek Adonis’ compared to sportswriters.

Thus Luke designed a defense that can loosely be called a “switching-man-to-man-paradigm-of-confusion.” Made to look like a zone, the Huskies would start most possessions with guard Alex Culy at the free throw line, not really defending anybody in particular. But when the ball would swing through the middle, he would switch onto the ball handler. And the Huskies switched on every single pick, including off-ball screens.

I spent most of the game trying to figure out what the heck the Huskies were doing — and so did the Oilers. Findlay ran both their zone and man offense against the Tech ‘D,’ and neither experienced much success.

"They were running man and they were running zone offense and we just kept covering them," Luke said. "They tried to mix up the offenses and I think we made them uncomfortable. They didn't get that edge at the start that they normally have. I was proud of the way our kids played."

"We didn't play zone one time out there," Luke added with more than a little glee. "It was a man-to-man where we were dragging and switching everything."

A defensive scheme like that is high-risk/high-reward. If you can execute it, then snapping a 13-game losing streak to a traditional GLIAC-power is possible. But it takes a high level of communication and focus to pull off, otherwise the cracks in it will be huge and exploitable.

The execution of the “switching-man-to-man-paradigm-of-confusion,” is the most impressive thing I have seen all season from Tech. A credit to both Luke for drawing it up and his players for performing.

3. Senior forward Mike Hojnacki, who finished with his first double-double of the season and 16 points and 12 rebounds, needed an effort like that badly.

He has spent the better part of the last three weeks in-and-out of Luke’s dog house for playing too passive at times. He was anything but Thursday, attacking the defensive glass and drawing six free throws at games end taking the ball hard to the rim.

I asked Luke a few weeks ago if Hojnacki was the team’s X-factor and he agreed with the sentiment.

If the team is going to make a postseason run or capture the GLIAC North title, they will need Hojnacki to play with that attitude — if not those numbers — every game.

"I am going out and trying every night whether it is a tough game, easy game or whatever," Hojnacki said. "But it is definitely nice to have a night like this and I am going to try and carry it over as the season goes on."

 
 

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