LSSU photos by Drew Putvin and Billie McLeod
SAULT STE. MARIE - No. 18 Lake Superior State, playing in front of a boisterous crowd of 979 fans, defeated Michigan Tech 82-61 Saturday at Bud Cooper Gymnasium to win the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference North Division title in men's basketball.
The Lakers (26-3 overall, 18-3 GLIAC) also clinched at least a share of the overall GLIAC regular-season championship. They close the regular season Thursday at Wayne State and are vying with GLIAC South Division leader Findlay (17-4, 21-4) for the overall title and No. 1 seed in the GLIAC Tournament. LSSU will be hosting a GLIAC Quarterfinal game on Wednesday, March 5, but Findlay owns the tie-breaker in the battle for the top seed.
LSSU coach Steve Hettinga, the program's all-time wins leader in his seventh season, also won a North Division title in 2008-09. It is the Lakers' fifth championship overall.
Senior guard Derek Billing scored 25 points and junior forward Alex Williams followed with 19 as Lake Superior State led from start to finish. The Lakers shot a blistering 60.9 percent from the field during the second half to pull away from a 33-28 halftime lead.
Billing, who opened the second half with back-to-back three-pointers, scored 16 second-half points, while Williams had 12 and junior guard Tony Harris 10.
LSSU put the game out of reach during an 11-3 run that began with another Billing three-pointer at 10:46 of the second half. Harris added a layup, while senior center Cameron Metz made four straight free throws. Billing finished it off with a layup at 8:23 for a 66-48 Laker command. LSSU enjoyed a 20-point lead with 4:15 to go.
Harris finished with 12 points and Metz had 11. Junior forward Jake Blake totaled five points, four assists and a career-high 16 rebounds. Sophomore Devin Daly had seven rebounds as LSSU held a 41-36 advantage on the boards.
Blake has contributed 11.2 rebounds per game during the Lakers' last six outings.
LSSU shot 49.1 percent from the field for the game, including 8-of-18 from three-point range. The Lakers made 22-of-28 free throws.
Austin Armga, who this week shared Capital One Academic All-America honors with Billing, led MTU (19-6 overall, 15-6 GLIAC) with 23 points and six rebounds. Ben Stelzer scored 12 points, and Luke Heller had 10.
MTU is in sole possession of second place in the GLIAC North Division heading into its final regular-season game against Northern Michigan.
The Huskies shot a season-low 32.8 percent from the field, including 3-of-23 from three-point range, and made 16-of-22 free throws. They entered the game leading the league in several statistical categories, including scoring defense (64.8 percent) and average three-pointers made per game (9.5).
The start of the game was delayed five hours due to Friday's closure of the Mackinac Bridge.