GVSU men’s basketball falls short in physical showdown against Wayne State

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.

Robbie Triano

Coming into their matchup against the Wayne State Warriors on Thursday, Feb. 8, at the DeltaPlex Arena, the Grand Valley State men’s basketball team knew exactly what to expect from the GLIAC rival: physicality.

After a week of preparing for their battle, the Lakers brought the fight, but the Warriors landed the final punch to knock out GVSU and take the 66-60 victory. With the loss, GVSU’s record dropped to 11-12 overall (6-9 GLIAC). (Following the Lakers’ win against Davenport University on Saturday, Feb. 10, their record now stands at 12-12 overall and 7-9 in the GLIAC.)

When asked about his team’s performance, GVSU head coach Ric Wesley was left with more questions and frustration than answers.

“I don’t know what happened there,” Wesley said. “It felt like we just didn’t match up to their physicality. From start to finish, it was a football type of game, and I just didn’t think we responded.”

That lack of intensity was most apparent in the first half, as the Lakers fell victim to Wayne State center Chuck Key. Whether it was inside or at the top of the key, Key converted six of seven attempts for 14 first-half points. 

On the other side, the Warriors didn’t make it easy for GVSU on offense, as they held the Lakers to 31 percent from the field and only 25 points. Wayne State is currently the No. 1 defensive team in the GLIAC, holding opponents to 66.7 points per game and 29.3 from behind the 3-point line. 

Going into halftime down 34-25, the Lakers knew something had to be done to stop Wayne State’s Key from scoring inside. After talking with the coaching staff, Wesley decided to shift the Lakers’ defense from their typical man-to-man to a 2-3 zone.

“We had to go with the zone because we just couldn’t stop them,” Wesley said. “I don’t think we came out and defended Key very low. He’s such a good low-post guy and was able to shoot some jump shots. I don’t think we adjusted to that very well.”

The adjustment took some time to settle in, as Wayne State started the half on a 8-2 run. The bigger issue for GVSU was its lack of offensive production inside from the starting guards.

Nevertheless, when the Lakers needed it, senior point guard Chris Dorsey and center Drake Baar came in to lead the Lakers on a 16-2 run by attacking the basket and feeding the post. With eight minutes remaining in regulation, the Lakers had cut the deficit within 2 points: They were down 49-47. Dorsey finished the contest with 12 points, while Baar scored all 10 points in the second half. 

“I was just trying to stay aggressive and push our guys,” Dorsey said. “In a game like that where they were not calling any fouls, I just had to be as aggressive as possible and attack the basket.”

But just like the first half, the Warrior defense prevailed in the final minutes, sweeping their season series with the Lakers with a 66-60 final score. 

For the Lakers, their downfall came from the lack of success from beyond the arc, as the team only converted two of their 12 total attempts. Coach Wesley had to respect the Wayne State defense for shutting down their greatest strength.

“They just do a great job getting up into our bodies,” Wesley said. “Ultimately, they just took our guards out of the game.”

The only other notable factor for the Lakers was freshman Jake Van Tubbergen, who totaled 14 points, eight rebounds, two steals and two blocks.

As one of the team’s many vocal leaders, Dorsey knew he couldn’t be too hard on his team for being just a few possessions short of getting the win.

“I don’t really harp about past games with these guys,” Dorsey said. “Our mindset has to be onto the next game and to get back on another win streak.”