GVSU men’s hoops goes 1-1 in Upper Peninsula road trip

GVL / Luke Holmes - 
Justin Greason (24) follows through after shooting a free throw. Grand Valley had a victory over Lake Superior State Thursday, Feb. 12, 2016.

GVL / Luke Holmes – Justin Greason (24) follows through after shooting a free throw. Grand Valley had a victory over Lake Superior State Thursday, Feb. 12, 2016.

Beau Troutman

The last time the Grand Valley State men’s basketball team was in the Upper Peninsula, the team bus got hit by a snowmobile.

This time the bus traveled there and back unscathed, and the Lakers split a two-game road trip to the UP. The Lakers fell to the Michigan Tech Huskies 72-64 Thursday, Jan. 26 in Houghton, Michigan. GVSU rebounded with a 79-56 win over the Northern Michigan Wildcats Saturday, Jan. 28 in Marquette, Michigan.

The two-game split puts the Lakers’ record at 13-7 (9-4 GLIAC). They’re in a three-way tie for second place in the conference with the Huskies (11-9, 9-4) and the Findlay Oilers (15-5, 9-4).

The Lakers traveled to Houghton first, though traditionally the Lakers have always started in Marquette.

In the first game against the Huskies the Lakers were able to keep the score close, but an average shooting performance and turnovers proved costly in a game that never saw either team’s lead higher than 12 points. The Huskies had eight turnovers to the Lakers’ 17, and shot 55.6 percent from the field (15-of-27) compared to GVSU, who shot 40.6 percent (13-of-32).

The Lakers did out-rebound the Huskies 44-32, bolstering their third-best GLIAC rebounds-per-game average (38.9). Senior guard Luke Ryskamp (13.7 points-per-game) led the Lakers with 15 points—nine of which came from the free throw line—and seven rebounds. Senior forward Trevin Alexander (11.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG) had 15 points with nine rebounds and sophomore center Justin Greason added 11 points with five boards.

The Lakers fared much better against the Wildcats, thanks to a fiery second half. Though GVSU only led 28-26 at halftime, the Lakers exploded for 51 points on 70.4 percent shooting from the field (19-of-27), along with converting 8-of-9 from the charity strike. At one point, the Lakers went on a 34-2 run. The Wildcats scored only 30 points in the second half, and shot just 30.8 percent as a team for the entire game (20-of-65).

“I was really worried about having enough energy on Saturday after a tough game on Thursday,” said GVSU coach Ric Wesley. “We sort of came out and played a little lazy. Going into halftime, I felt fortunate to be where we were. In the second half we just had more aggressiveness, almost right away, and man oh man, we just got tremendous play from the guys off the bench.”

The usual suspects came up big for the Lakers again. Ryskamp had 17 points, Alexander had 12 points with 10 rebounds and two blocks. The bench totaled 37 points, including Greason, who had 15 points—all of which came in the second half. Also getting in on the action off the bench was freshman forward Ben Lubitz, who scored a career-high 13 points.

Up next, the Lakers will make a quick turnaround for one of the biggest games of the season. GVSU will host the Ferris State Bulldogs, the No. 1 ranked team in the conference, Monday, Jan. 30 at 8 p.m. at the GVSU Fieldhouse. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN3, along with the women’s game at 6 p.m. 

The Bulldogs, who have won 12 straight games, have been on a tear this season at 17-3 (11-2 GLIAC), and a GVSU win would give the Lakers sole possession of second place in the conference. FSU is first in the GLIAC in PPG (87.9), RPG (41) and blocks-per-game (7.2). They are led by monstrous sophomore center Zach Hankins, who averages 14.9 PPG, 9.7 RPG and a GLIAC-best 4.4 blocks-per-game.

“(FSU wants) to play a frenetic pace,” Wesley said. “For us, it’s a rivalry game, it’s always a little more emotional. It’s a big opportunity for us, hopefully we can recreate the energy that we had (against NMU) and play our best.”

The Lakers, who lead the GLIAC in field goal percentage (49.2) and three-point field goal percentage (39.5) are up to the challenge.

“We’re just going to go at them,” Alexander said. “We’re not scared of anybody, it’s basketball. (Hankins) has to guard us, we have to guard him. We’re going to give him everything we got. It’s a rivalry game, so we’re all going to be energized up. 

“My big guys are going to go to battle, I’m going to battle with them, we’re going to go in that fight together.”