GVSU men’s basketball loses two in GLIAC play

Adam Knorr and Alex Eisen

The Grand Valley State men’s basketball team opened GLIAC play in discouraging fashion, dropping a pair of conference games at home amidst high hopes following a 5-0 start to the season.

On Thursday night, GVSU fell to Ashland 76-72 in overtime, and took another punch on Saturday afternoon, losing to Lake Erie 84-78.

The opener against Ashland (7-0, 2-0 GLIAC) was a back-and-forth affair, with no team leading by more than seven points throughout the contest. With the score tied 65-65 and 0.7 seconds to go in regulation, GVSU had a chance to win.

The Lakers (5-2, 0-2 GLIAC) ran an inbound play and freed up forward Ricardo Carbajal. Carbajal got a clean look at the basket, but the shot wouldn’t fall and the game headed to overtime.

The Eagles outscored the Lakers 11-7 in the extra frame. Down 74-72 with under a minute to go, junior Trevin Alexander tried to hit Myles Miller in the corner with a skip pass, but the pass sailed high and out of bounds. GVSU was forced to foul on Ashland’s next possession, but the Eagles missed both free throws to give GVSU a chance.

Aaron Hayes’ ensuing layup didn’t fall, and Ashland’s Wendell Davis hit two free throws to knock GVSU from the ranks of the unbeaten.

“We had some opportunities there late — one sort of in transition where we moved it around and Luke had a shot, Ricky had an offensive rebound,” said GVSU head coach Ric Wesley. “Pretty good opportunities and we just didn’t get them in there.”

The game was characterized by stingy defense and a rough shooting night by both teams, as neither reached 50 percent from the field. GVSU again controlled the paint, outrebounding Ashland 35-32 and scoring 42 points in the paint to the Eagles’ 28.

The game was reminiscent of last year’s marathon game in Ashland, Ohio, in which the Eagles beat GVSU 93-92 in four overtimes.

“They’re a lot like us,” Wesley said. “They’re a good physical team and that’s kind of how our game was with them last year. To their credit, they made the plays. Our defense wasn’t very good late. They got right to the basket, got some easy opportunities and the opportunities we got we weren’t able to get them in the basket.”

The Lakers had a balanced attack, as five players scored in double figures. Carbajal paced GVSU with 15 points, as junior Luke Ryskamp added 14. Aaron Hayes dropped 13, Alexander scored 11 and Chaz Rollins recorded 10.

GVSU dropped its second consecutive conference game Saturday night against Lake Erie. The Storm held off a late surge by the Lakers to win 84-78.

Lake Erie’s largest lead of 23 points with 12:14 left in the game was whittled down to only four with 16 seconds remaining.

A steal off an inbound on a full-court trap by Ryskamp and an immediate foul put the GVSU junior guard at the free throw line with 11 seconds left with a chance to cut the Storm’s lead in half.

Ryskamp missed both attempts and Lake Erie iced the game with free throws at the other end. The Lakers went 16-30 (53.3 percent) at the charity stripe and 27-52 (51.9 percent) from the field.

GVSU couldn’t get into a rhythm shooting and struggled to take care of the ball. Under the constant harassment of the Storm defense, the Lakers gave up 22 points on 17 turnovers.

“Not a great night and certainly not the kind of start to our conference (schedule) we would have hoped for,” Wesley said. “I’m disappointed in just the way we played the first half and I have to give (Lake Erie) a lot of credit. The way they shot the ball was unbelievable and maybe as good as anybody has every shot the ball against us here.”

Six different Lake Erie players contributed to 10 Storm 3-pointers in the first half, propelling them to a 52-36 lead going into the locker room. Junior forward Michael Morris knocked down three triples and finished with season-high 19 points.

“(The 3-pointers) really set us back a lot,” Hayes said. “We were down a ton of points, so at halftime we regrouped, got our focus and came out hard in the second half. We had nothing to lose at that point.”

Hayes had a team-high 16 points to go along with four assists. Rollins played one of his better games, and got praised from Wesley afterwards, as the senior recorded his first double-double of the season with a season-high in points (13) and rebounds (13).

While the second-half comeback was a positive sign, the Lakers need to right the ship before it sinks any faster in GLIAC play.

“We are not the golden child. We are not the Cleveland Cavaliers,” Wesley said. “I don’t know that we’re going to be favored in many games. It’s going to be 50/50 or we are probably going to a bit of an underdog.”

The pair of losses ended an otherwise successful seven-game home stand to start the season (5-2). The Lakers will take to the road for a pair of conference matches next week against Tiffin (3-4, 0-2 GLIAC) on Dec. 11 and Ohio Dominican (3-5 , 0-2 GLIAC) on Dec. 13.