Lakers, Bulldogs prepare for 131 Showdown at Van Andel

GVL Archive / Andrew Mills
Senior Justin Ringler drives to the basket during last Thursday

GVL Archive / Andrew Mills Senior Justin Ringler drives to the basket during last Thursday

Brady Fredericksen

From the Anchor-Bone Trophy on the football field to a nearly identical head-to-head record on the basketball court, the rivalry between Grand Valley State University and Ferris State University is one of the best in the GLIAC Conference.

That rivalry will be put on display on the biggest stage in West Michigan on Saturday as the programs battle on the hardwood in the Amway 131 Showdown at Van Andel Arena in downtown Grand Rapids.

In a night that will feature a match-up of the women at 6 p.m. and the men at 8 p.m., the change of scenery has created a buzz of excitement seen from players and coaches alike.

“It’s definitely an honor to be playing at the Van Andel, and it’s going to be a great atmosphere to be in for both players and fans,” said junior guard Wes Trammell, a Jenison native. “Ferris (State) is a obviously a huge rival of ours, and since the conference race is so close right now, it makes the game even bigger.”

The conference race Trammell referred to makes this one of the biggest games of the GLIAC season on the men’s side. Currently ranked No. 18 by the National Association of Basketball Coaches, GVSU (10-1 GLIAC, 15-3 overall) will enter Saturday’s game versus Ferris State (9-2 GLIAC, 13-5 overall) with hopes of extending their current one-game lead over the Bulldogs in the GLIAC North Division.

Among the challenges awaiting Trammell and the Lakers is Ferris State center Justin Keenan. The six-foot-seven-inch senior is the conference’s leader in scoring (22.9) and rebounds (9.2) and should prove a worthy adversary for the deep Laker front court.

This will mark the 95th match-up all-time between the schools, in a rivalry that Ferris State leads 48-46. The rivalry has been much kinder for GVSU in recent years, as GVSU head coach Ric Wesley touts an 11-4 career record against the Bulldogs.

“I think this is obviously an exciting opportunity for us to be playing in downtown Grand Rapids, and hopefully some folks who aren’t normally exposed to Grand Valley basketball can come check it out,” said Wesley. “It’s also a big game for us in terms of conference standings. It’s our arch-rival in a year where both teams are off to a great start, so it’s an exciting time.”

On the ladies side, fans can expect a heated battle between the conference’s top passing teams. GVSU (7-4 GLIAC, 13-4 overall) and Ferris State (5-6 GLIAC, 9-8 overall) are ranked first and second in assists in the GLIAC, and both boast the conference’s leaders in that category with junior Jasmine Padin (5.3 assists per game) leading the Lakers and senior Becci Houdek (5.1) for the Bulldogs.

While the on-court exploits of all four teams will be important come Saturday, the impact on not only the standings, but the Van Andel Arena crowd will be key.

“Since we are able to play at the Van Andel arena against a close rival like Ferris, it’s definitely an opportunity for us to give back to the community that supports us each game,” said senior guard Elizabeth Van Tiflin, the team’s leading rebounder. “We’re able to give back to our community by encouraging fans from Allendale, Grand Rapids, and the surrounding areas to come and support us in a very exciting and monumental game in our season.”

Losers in three of their last five games, the Lakers hope to regain their early season success by defeating their suddenly hot rival. After losing three-straight games to start the month of January, Ferris State will carry a three-game winning streak into Saturday’s showdown.

The rivalry on the women’s side isn’t quite as even as the men. In 80 match-ups, the Lakers lead the all-time series 56-24, but that doesn’t down-play the rivalry in the eyes of GVSu head women’s coach Janel Burgess, who feels it will have a chance to make an impact on both school’s basketball programs.

“The rivalry between FSU and GVSU is always special and I think this will escalate the game even more,” said women’s coach Janel Burgess, who is 4-2 against Ferris State in three seasons as GVSU head coach. “Our team is excited to play at Van Andel and show downtown Grand Rapids what GVSU and GLIAC basketball is all about.”

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