Preview: GVSU men’s basketball to play last regular-season home games against Ashland, Tiffin

GVL / Emily Frye 
Men’s Basketball vs Wayne State University at the DeltaPlex Arena on Thursday February 8, 2018.

GVL / Emily Frye Men’s Basketball vs Wayne State University at the DeltaPlex Arena on Thursday February 8, 2018.

Louis Ricard

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Some game situations can be controlled or anticipated. In other cases, there is no point in trying to be the smartest one on the court or to draw the best play. It’s about who wants it more. 

Grand Valley State men’s basketball will have to have that mindset on Thursday, Feb. 15, against Ashland and again Saturday, Feb. 17, against Tiffin. GVSU recently got out of a three-game losing streak that forced head coach Ric Wesley to make some changes. 

“I thought in our Wayne State game the energy was a little down,” Wesley said. “I changed the lineup for the Davenport game in a way to maybe get everybody’s attention a little bit more.” 

Not only did he get the attention of his players, but Wesley saw them bring that intensity and passion they had been lacking in the past, something Zach West illustrated by putting up a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

“Getting a lineup a little bit of a shake and making guys wake up like, ‘Oh, I’m not performing like I should or as well as I have been,’ gave everyone a wake-up call that we really need to turn it up,” West said. “I think that everybody took it upon themselves to step up. We have a really good individual play, which brought our team play to another level. That’s what initiated it and what gave us that edge.”

This week is different, as GVSU needs to win if they want to advance to the conference tournament. Sitting at 12-12 on the season, the Lakers need to bring everything they’ve got against GLIAC standout Wendell Davis and his teammates of Ashland. 

Davis is one of the best players in the conference, averaging 21.1 points a game, over six rebounds and a little over three assists per contest. Wesley knows the key to the game is limiting Davis’ dominance on the court, and it will be no easy task. 

“Early in his career, he was more of a Draymond Green type of player, big guy who played around the basket,” Wesley said. “As a senior, he looks more like a point guard. He handles the ball a ton. He really improved his 3-point shot.” 

With this kind of versatility, GVSU will have to be sharp defensively, something they’ve been struggling with this season. In their last game against Ashland, GVSU lost 80-89 in a close contest. The Lakers did not lose because of a poor effort offensively but because of their struggles on the other end of the court. 

“We just couldn’t get defensive stops, and that’s one of our big issues this year is getting defensive stop,” West said. “Bringing our defensive intensity like we did at Davenport I think is a big thing in these next two games. It will give us that slight advantage as long as we take care of what we need to on the offensive end and shoot the ball.”

Although Ashland will give GVSU all kind of trouble, Tiffin is no joke, either. Their record might not show it, but Tiffin has had close games with most of the top teams in the conference, including a hard-fought battle against GVSU. According to West, Tiffin is a team that is not afraid to get dirty to get the win, and GVSU will have to match that intensity on both ends of the floor if they want to come out victorious. 

Intensity is the key word for this week. The Lakers will be at home for both games, enabling them to rest and be in optimal form to get two wins in a row and seize the chance to enter the GLIAC Tournament. 

For Wesley, there is no question that his team has the talent to make it. The question is how badly do they want it?

“It comes down to toughness and competitiveness,” Wesley said. “You have to compete at a high level. Sometimes these games are so closely matched, you just throw the scouting reports out the window. It’s just whatever team wants it the most will end up on top.”

GVSU will face Ashland on Thursday, Feb. 15, at 6 p.m. and will go against Tiffin on Saturday, Feb. 17, at 1 p.m. Both games will be at the GVSU Fieldhouse Arena.