Stelzer strikes again as Tech runs past GVSU

GVL/Kevin Sielaff
#32 Ricardo Carbajal

GVL/Kevin Sielaff

GVL/Kevin Sielaff #32 Ricardo Carbajal

Jay Bushen

Michigan Tech senior guard Ben Stelzer continues to bully the Grand Valley State men’s basketball team.

Entering Saturday’s contest against GVSU at Fieldhouse Arena, Stelzer had averaged 21.3 points in his last six games against the Lakers. In that span, Stelzer shot 26-of-38 from the 3-point line — 68.4 percent — as the Huskies went 5-1.

Saturday was no different for the GLIAC Preseason Player of the Year. Stelzer tallied five 3-pointers and a game-high 29 points as the Huskies won their sixth straight over GVSU, 71-60.

“I seem to like this gym, for one thing,” Stelzer said after the game. “I don’t know. Grand Valley’s always been a solid team and if you don’t play well, if you don’t bring it, you’re going to lose. Every game you’ve got to play big, but against the best teams you’ve got to play your best.”

Stelzer, who didn’t know he became Michigan Tech’s all-time leader in 3-point makes during the game, said he and his teammates got back to playing the “Tech way” on Thursday in a 68-60 victory at No. 22 Ferris State.

Offensively, the “Tech way” includes patience, purposeful cuts, physical screens and crisp passing. All were on display against GVSU in the first half.

The Huskies shot 14-of-25 as a team (56 percent) in the opening frame, going 6-of-12 from the 3-point line. Four of those 3s came from Stelzer, who had a half-high 16 points. Tech led 36-25 at the break.

“Offensively, as you can see, we’re not the most athletic team,” Stelzer said. “So it’s about doing it the Tech way — screens and playing your role the best you can.”

The 6-foot-1 sharpshooter made six of his eight free throws in the second half, finishing 8-of-8 from the stripe. 

The Huskies hit 16-of-20 free throws in the game, which allowed them to maintain a double-digit cushion down the stretch. In two games against GVSU this year, Michigan Tech has drained 46-of-53 freebies, 86.8 percent.

“To their credit, Ben Stelzer played phenomenal,” said GVSU junior forward Ricky Carbajal. “We knew he had the potential to do that, and he chose to do it tonight, again.

“Those big dudes just set screens on our guards and they’re like a brick wall. It’s hard for our guards to get around them, and you have kids like Ben Stelzer who can just catch and shoot quick, without hesitation. It’s real hard and they strive for doing that — getting him open. All he needs is a little bit of space and he’ll shoot it.”

Carbajal had a huge game with 24 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and three steals. The 24-point outing tied his career high, while his 14 boards were a career best. Sophomore guard Luke Ryskamp added 11 points, while junior guard Darren Kapustka chipped in with seven points, four assists and no turnovers.

A number of guards — Ryan Sabin, Myles Miller, Ernijs Ansons and others — were all over Stelzer for much of the game, but his quick release and Michigan Tech’s screen game countered the coverage.

He does it to a lot of teams. Stelzer is shooting a GLIAC-best 46.5 percent from beyond the arc this season. He’s hit 86 trifectas, 29 more than any player in the conference.

“You just don’t see guys that can shoot the ball like Stelzer anywhere,” said GVSU coach Ric Wesley. “We did not do a great job on him, but, at the same time, it takes unbelievable concentration and effort to limit him at all. And anytime you don’t, he makes you pay.”

Michigan Tech moves to 12-5 in GLIAC play, good enough for fourth place in the North Division, while the loss drops GVSU to last (6-11 GLIAC). 

GVSU has five games left to make a run at the GLIAC Tournament, but it won’t be easy against five North Division teams with a combined conference record of 59-26. The Lakers head to the Upper Peninsula to take on first-place Lake Superior State in Sault Ste. Marie on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

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