GVSU men’s hoops tied for second in GLIAC standings after two road wins

GVL / Luke Holmes - Juwan Starks (22) dribbles around a defender. GVSU defeated Trinity Christian on Friday, Nov. 18, 2016.

Luke Holmes

GVL / Luke Holmes – Juwan Starks (22) dribbles around a defender. GVSU defeated Trinity Christian on Friday, Nov. 18, 2016.

Beau Troutman

Grand Valley State men’s basketball took to the road and climbed the conference ladder this weekend with blowouts wins over the Hillsdale Chargers (4-6, 0-4 GLIAC) and Walsh Cavaliers (7-2, 2-2). The Lakers took down the Chargers 75-49 Thursday, Dec. 9 and defeated the Cavaliers 79-58.

The Lakers improved to 7-4 (3-1 GLIAC) on the season. They are tied for second in the conference with Saginaw Valley State (9-1, 3-1 GLIAC), the No. 1-ranked team in the country. SVSU suffered its first loss of the season Saturday to Tiffin, 82-76.

“Just a great trip,” said GVSU coach Ric Wesley. “To go on the road and have two decisive victories is both a bit surprising and certainly encouraging. You’ve got to steal some on the road to get some momentum and start stringing them together. You look at the scores, the No. 1 team in the nation goes on the road and gets beat. It’s obvious that there’s a number of quality teams.

“We’ve got a long way to (go), we’re just trying to get as many wins as we can, anywhere we can.”

In the first game against Hillsdale, the Lakers trailed 14-10 with about 13 minutes remaining in the first half. The Chargers’ lead was short lived, as the Lakers ended the half on a 26-3 run that gave them a 40-20 halftime advantage. The Lakers never relinquished that lead.

The 26-point win was the Lakers’ largest conference road victory since an 84-58 win over Ashland Feb. 2, 2008. Four players scored in double figures: Senior guard Luke Ryskamp (15 points), junior center Drake Baar (11 points) junior guard Chris Dorsey (11 points) and junior guard Danzel Wright (10 points) all made significant contributions during the game. The Lakers out-rebounded the Chargers 49-30 and held them to just 18-of-62 from the field.

“From being a senior and being around, we know how big these wins are early in a season,” Ryskamp said. “These are the games you look back on when February and March come, so to win every one of these games early is huge.”

The second game against the Cavaliers was not much different from the first. The bench players led the way this time around, outscoring the Walsh bench 34-9. Dorsey, part of the Lakers’ second line, had 15 first-half points and 17 total on 8-of-9 shooting.

“Definitely a confidence booster to see the ball go in the hoop, obviously,” Dorsey said. “(The bench players) try to bring more energy for us. We like playing defense, so when we’re on the floor, we’re all digging in trying to get stops, and that leads to getting easier buckets. We’re all capable scorers, and it’s fun being out there with those guys.”

Senior forward Juwan Starks, who has been the sixth man for the Lakers off the bench this season, started both games this weekend. He had seven points and two blocks against the Cavaliers, and locked down the Chargers’ No. 1 scoring option Stedman Lowry in the first game. Lowry shot 1-of-11 from the field.

Along with Dorsey’s performance, Baar finished with 14 points and six rebounds. Ryskamp and point guard Myles Miller each recorded 10 points. The Lakers shot 54.5 percent from the field as a team. It was the first home loss for the Cavaliers this season.

The Lakers return to Allendale this week and host the Tiffin Dragons Saturday, Dec. 17 with a 3 p.m. tip-off.