GVSU ends nonconference slate 2-1

GVL/Kevin Sielaff - Luke Ryskamp (23) goes in for a lay-up during the game versus Great Lakes Christian on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL/Kevin Sielaff – Luke Ryskamp (23) goes in for a lay-up during the game versus Great Lakes Christian on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016.

Beau Troutman

The Grand Valley State men’s basketball team (4-3) ended its nonconference slate 2-1 in a three-game stretch that started Monday, Nov. 21 with an 88-55 win over the Grace Bible Tigers in Allendale. The Lakers then the traveled to Rensselaer, Indiana for the Saint Joseph’s College Thanksgiving Classic Friday and Saturday, Nov. 25-26.

The Lakers fell to the Upper Iowa Peacocks 76-72 Friday, but rebounded Saturday with a 92-68 win over the Salem International Tigers, their first road win this season.

The Lakers jumped out to a 47-19 first half lead over the Tigers on Monday, and never looked back. The Lakers shot 14-28 from beyond the arc and the Tigers had just one player in double figures. Senior guard Luke Ryskamp led all players with 22 points. Senior forward Trevin Alexander was a Swiss Army knife for the Lakers, recording 16 points, nine rebounds, six assists, four steals and two blocks.

Against the Peacocks on Friday, the Lakers found themselves in yet another tight road contest. The game was tied 68-68 with just minutes remaining, but the Peacocks scored eight of the last 12 points to win. In road games this season, the Lakers have lost by margins of just eight, five and four points.

The Peacocks’ Josh Weeber came off the bench and scored 20 points off the bench—11 of which came in the second half—on 7-of-10 shooting with five 3-pointers.

“They had (Weeber) come off the bench and really get hot, made some great shots,” said GVSU coach Ric Wesley. “He banked in a three late in the shot clock, so they had some things roll their way. Disappointing loss, I don’t fault our effort, we just didn’t quite make enough good plays.”

The Lakers had four players in double figures: Ryskamp (15), Drake Baar (14), Alexander (13) and senior forward Juwan Starks (11). Alexander led the team with 15 boards and added five assists and two blocks.

The Lakers rebounded from that loss and got their first road win of the season in a tournament consolation game Saturday against the Tigers of Salem International, and opened the game outscoring the Tigers 45-23 in the first half.

Ryskamp made history 22 seconds into the game. Sitting at 999 career points, the senior drilled a 3-pointer that put him into the GVSU 1,000 point-club. He’s the 34th Laker to do so, and he finished the game with 16 points.

“I think it was a good feeling for everybody, to see how hard you’ve got to play and how good you’ve got to execute on the road to win,” Ryskamp said. “To pull that game out on the road, not very many people were there, we kind of had to bring our own energy.

“Team-wise, it was a very good test for us, and it was a very good win.”

Baar, the junior center, had his best game of the season. He notched a career-high 23 points and five rebounds. He was 10-for-10 from the field, the first Laker to do that since Callistus Eziukwu did it Feb. 10, 2005 against Saginaw Valley State.

As the Lakers head into GLIAC play, time will tell if Baar is the long-term answer at center for the team. Sophomore Justin Greason has also seen time at the five-position as well.

“Time will tell,” Wesley said. “This is his first chance really getting a chance to be in there full-time and get a lot of minutes. He certainly played tremendous yesterday. What will happen now, as you become more of a focal point in the other team’s scouting reports, it gets harder and harder. It’s certainly a big positive when he’s able to elevate his game like that.”

The Lakers open conference play against the Findlay Oilers this Thursday, Dec. 1.