GVSU men’s hoops splits another weekend series

GVL / Kevin Sielaff - Darren Kapustka (3) drives toward the hoop. The Lakers defeat the Cardinals of SVSU with a final score of 76-73 in Allendale.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL / Kevin Sielaff – Darren Kapustka (3) drives toward the hoop. The Lakers defeat the Cardinals of SVSU with a final score of 76-73 in Allendale.

A.A. Knorr and Brady McAtamney

As has almost become tradition for the Grand Valley State men’s basketball team, the Lakers split two GLIAC games over the weekend.

GVSU’s GLIAC tournament status remains unknown with just one game left in the regular season. GVSU, Hillsdale and Northwood are battling for the two remaining GLIAC tournament spots.

“Season’s winding down there’s no sense dwelling on anything,” said GVSU head coach Ric Wesley. “We’ve got one more opportunity that’s guaranteed — you just make sure you come back strong. Give it everything you got and send our seniors out on a good note.”

The Lakers (17-10, 11-10 GLIAC) upended No. 12 Saginaw Valley State 76-73 at Fieldhouse Arena on Feb. 18, but fell 77-70 in a key road match at Hillsdale on Feb. 20.

The first half of the game against SVSU (22-5, 18-3 GLIAC), while close for a majority of the 20 minutes, was controlled by the Cardinals as they took a 33-30 lead into the locker room. The lead was fueled by 50 percent shooting, while the Lakers hit 41.9 percent of their attempts.

The beginning of the second half stuck to the blueprint set in the first half: plenty of ties and lead changes.

That was, however, until about seven minutes into the second half, when GVSU’s Luke Ryskamp blocked a Cardinal shot attempt leading to a GVSU fast break. Ryskamp missed the transition 3-pointer, grabbed his own rebound, then drew a foul and made his shot. The swing pumped momentum into the Lakers and sent a jolt of energy through the crowd that hardly went silent for the remainder of the game.

“I thought the bench was inspired in the second half, everyone was playing well and the crowd helped us a lot too,” Wesley said.

Ryskamp led the way for GVSU with 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting. Three other Lakers tacked on with double-digit scoring. Aaron Hayes contributed 17 points, Ricardo Carbajal brought in 14 and Chaz Rollins was good for 11.

“We were just moving the ball as a team and when we’re doing that, guys are capable of doing good things. When we’re playing good defense and moving the ball, good things tend to happen,” Ryskamp said. “We played like our season depended on it, and I think that’s what kind of brought us together in the end.”

Two days after the uplifting SVSU win, the Lakers traveled to Hillsdale (16-9, 12-9 GLIAC) in a game that heavily affected both teams’ GLIAC tournament hopes. GVSU fell behind early, and, despite getting itself in good position in the second half, was unable to secure a win, falling to the Chargers for the second time this season.

“Just disappointed that we couldn’t finish it off. We played pretty well for most of the game and AJ (Hayes) had a tremendous individual performance,” Wesley said. “We just didn’t finish the game off.”

The Lakers hung with the Chargers early, playing to an 8-8 tie out of the gate. From there, however, Hillsdale created a gap and widened it, combining strong defense and accurate shooting to move out to a 28-13 advantage.

GVSU kept chipping away, as two 3-pointers from Zach West and two buckets from Rollins drew the Lakers to within five at 28-23. As the clock wound down late in the first half, Carbajal nailed a triple to bring the halftime score to 32-28 in Hillsdale’s favor.

The two teams traded buckets for much of the second half, but the Lakers managed to pull ahead, owning a 65-59 lead with under four minutes to go after Hayes converted an and-1 layup.

But Hillsdale couldn’t be fended off. Clutch shooting and converted free throws pulled the Chargers back ahead, as they eventually secured the win 77-70.

Hayes led GVSU with 24 points, while Rollins contributed with 11 points and nine rebounds. Kyle Cooper scored 26 points for Hillsdale, which shot 50 percent as a team, including 42.3 percent from 3-point land.

GVSU is back in action with its final regular season game against Ferris State at Fieldhouse Arena on Feb. 25.