GVSU men’s basketball survives scare to top Ashland 64-57

GVL / Sheila Babbitt
Teammates Chris Pearl and Chris Dorsey cheer on Ben Lubitz as he shoots a three at the game vs Ashland on February 15th, 2018.

GVL / Sheila Babbitt Teammates Chris Pearl and Chris Dorsey cheer on Ben Lubitz as he shoots a three at the game vs Ashland on February 15th, 2018.

Robbie Triano

Greeted by the most energetic home crowd of the season, the Grand Valley State men’s basketball team needed whatever boost they could get against the Ashland Eagles (17-9 overall, 10-8 GLIAC) to keep on the path to a playoff berth. 

Ashland gave the Lakers their fair share of panic in the final minutes, but GVSU ended up pulling away with a 64-57 victory over the Eagles on Thursday, Feb. 15, at the GVSU Fieldhouse Arena. 

When asked if he had any fun during the game, GVSU head coach Ric Wesley had strong words about his immediate reactions to the victory.

“I don’t know if fun is the right word,” Wesley said. “It was just agony from start to finish. I feel like I went 15 rounds against Joe Frazier. I’m exhausted mentally and physically.”

The Lakers lost their first contest on the road to Ashland 89-80 on Jan. 11 in Ashland, Ohio. 

In terms of offense, the Lakers had to rely heavily on freshman forward Jake Van Tubbergen’s scoring inside against a large Ashland team. Van Tubbergen delivered with one of his best performances of the year, leading all scorers with 18 points (8-15 FG, 1-3 3PT), four blocks and 12 rebounds for his third double-double of the year.

“Jake just made some big plays on both ends of the court tonight,” Wesley said. “He truly had himself a great game when the rest of the team could just not get going.”

Coming into the contest, the Lakers knew their biggest test would be shutting down Ashland’s Wendell Davis, who is currently second in the GLIAC in terms of scoring (20.4 points per game). The Lakers accomplished their goal, as Davis only tallied 4 points in 35 total minutes by the end of the contest.

Filling the scoring void for Ashland was Ben Haraway (16 points) and Marsalis Hamilton (14 points).

With 4:06 remaining in regulation, Ashland’s Hamilton converted a layup to put the Eagles up 57-56. Ashland’s defense denied 3-point opportunities for GVSU, so the team was forced to attack inside the paint. On the defensive end, GVSU didn’t allow the Eagles to score another point after Hamilton’s layup.

The plan worked as the Lakers scored six unanswered free throws, two each from Hunter Hale, Myles Miller and Zach West, to put themselves up 62-57 with 14 seconds remaining.

Van Tubbergen ended the contest with a breakaway layup to seal the 64-57 victory over Ashland and keep their postseason chances alive and well. 

With the GVSU women’s basketball matchup against the No. 1 ranked Ashland women’s team being held right after the men’s contest, the Fieldhouse Arena provided one of the more electric atmospheres of the season. That engagement from the fans is one that Van Tubbergen believes pushed them over the hump. 

“When there’s that type of energy in the building, it just makes a world of difference,” he said. “This was definitely more electric than it has been all year.”

GVSU shot 46 percent from the field—39 percent from the 3-point line—compared to Ashland’s 39 percent clip from the field. Besides Van Tubbergen’s 18, other Laker standouts were Ben Lubitz (10 points), Myles Miller (8 points) and Hunter Hale (7 points).

“Just really happy with our competitive spirit and our fight,” Wesley said. “There were stretches there when it didn’t look like we were going to win the game, but I don’t think we lost faith in our competitive fight. We just kept digging and digging to get some stops late.”