GVSU men’s basketball dominates in home opener against Olivet, 96-64

GVL / Matt Read
Hunter Hale takes the ball to the hoop against Olivet on Tuesday November 14, 2017.

GVL / Matt Read Hunter Hale takes the ball to the hoop against Olivet on Tuesday November 14, 2017.

Robbie Triano

For the Grand Valley State men’s basketball team, it felt good to finally be home. 

The Lakers’ towering height, offensive attack and stifling defense led GVSU to an easy 96-64 home-opener victory over Olivet College on Tuesday, Nov. 14. With the victory, GVSU’s overall record improves to 2-1.

Greeted at their home court by a full student section and a heckling GVSU pep band, junior center Justin Greason, who tied sophomore guard Hunter Hale for a team-high 14 points, felt that the crowd gave the team the extra boost to succeed.

“It was a blast because there was a lot of energy here tonight,” Greason said. “Hopefully they keep coming out this year because we’ll keep winning if they keep coming.”

Before the Lakers even won the opening tipoff, GVSU head coach Ric Wesley and the rest of the staff revolved their offensive game plan on getting the ball in the low post against a much shorter Olivet team. The plan worked, as the Lakers scored their first 8 points in the paint. 

Olivet came out early with a full-court-press defense, which took time for the Lakers to understand. With the score tied 8-8 five minutes into the contest, the Lakers then scored 10 straight points to begin their initial stage of scoring separation. By the end of the first half, the Lakers led the contest comfortably with a 41-26 advantage. Although they could only shoot the 3-pointer at a 27 percent clip, the Lakers continued their successful game plan of getting the ball inside, shooting 49 percent total from the field. 

“It wasn’t a ‘big man’s game,’ but when we did find (our big men), it was quite often a pretty easy opportunity,” Wesley said.

Paving the way early for GVSU were Greason (8 points, three rebounds); sophomore 3-point specialist Ben Lubitz (9 points, two rebounds); senior big man Drake Baar (5 points, six rebounds); and junior defensive stopper Zach West (5 points, three assists and one steal).

Defensively, the Lakers only allowed three Olivet players to score in the first half.  

The Lakers’ first-half physicality down in the paint appeared to take a toll on Olivet’s defensive stamina coming out in the second half. GVSU took advantage of the opportunity offensively by taking their inside game outside, hitting 9-of-14 3-point attempts in the second half. 

On the defensive side, GVSU held Olivet’s field-goal percentage to a mere 38 percent and allowed 38 points, compared to the Lakers’ 55 second-half points. Coach Wesley was proud of of his team for their defensive finish.

“(Olivet) got a little bit tired in the second half,” Wesley said. “They don’t have a ton of firepower and have two players that really carry the load for that team. But we did a better job keeping those players on the perimeter and out of the offensive rhythm.”

With such a strong lead built heading into the final 10 minutes of the contest, the Lakers were able to play their bench depth, which was something they weren’t able to experience during the GLIAC/GLVC Challenge to start the season. Freshmen Brett Lauf, Steven Lloyd and sophomore Grant Mitchell each scored their first collegiate baskets.

After the final buzzer, the Lakers walked off the floor victors, taking the game by a score of 96-64 to capture their first home win of the season. Besides points, the Lakers dominated in nearly every single statistical category, including rebounds (46-33), 3-point field goals (12-6), points in the paint (36-24), steals (11-8) and assists (20-10)—the stat coach Wesley was most pleased with.

“We had 20 assists on 36 baskets, and whenever you can get near that range, it’s always a good thing,” Wesley said. “Olivet’s pressing and trapping defense made the game chaotic, so we just had to play basketball instead of running our plays. Overall, we swung the ball very well.”

Notable Laker standouts include Greason (14 points, seven rebounds); Hale (14 points, all in the second half); Lubitz (12 points, two steals); West (10 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals); and senior point guard Myles Miller (9 points, four assists).

Although his shooting performance wasn’t exactly what he had hoped for, Lubitz was pleased with the offense’s overall flow and production.

“Our facilitators like Myles (Miller) and Chris (Dorsey) were really able to get in the gaps and kick it out to our open shooters,” Lubitz said. “We got a lot of 3-pointers today, which is a good thing because we have a lot of 3-point shooters.”

The Lakers will hope to continue their early solid play against Grace Bible College in a non-conference battle Thursday, Nov. 16, at the GVSU Fieldhouse Arena.