Lakers down Spring Arbor 80-53

Justin Ringler jumps to get above the Spring Arbor defense. The Lakers pulled a 80-53 win over the Cougars.

Rane Martin

Justin Ringler jumps to get above the Spring Arbor defense. The Lakers pulled a 80-53 win over the Cougars.

Brady Fredericksen

Strong defense and a hot start Tuesday led the Grand Valley State University men’s basketball team to its second straight double-digit victory of the season, an 80-53 decision over Spring Arbor University.

Paced by 39 points off turnovers and a 27-18 edge in rebounding, the Lakers (2-0) wore out their NAIA opponent by forcing the Cougars (3-4) into mistakes throughout the game.

“We’ve done a better job getting into passing lanes and being smarter as the season has progressed,” said senior forward Justin Ringler, who finished with a game-high five assists. “We kind of got a little lax (Tuesday) and got too aggressive, but reaching in there and forcing turnovers kicks us into pushing the ball before they can set up.”

Ringler set the tone for GVSU from the start by scoring eight of the team’s first 16 points. While Ringler’s offense was the biggest story, the Lakers’ bench – coming off a solid game against Marygrove College – sparked the team again with 34 points.

Junior transfer Nick Waddell, one of three players in head coach Ric Wesley’s rotation at the center position, played his best game as a member of the Lakers by chipping in 10 points and a team-high six rebounds. Junior guard Wes Trammell and sophomore guard Tony Peters combined for 18 points, but the highlight of the half came when red-shirt freshman center Ashaun Tatum energized the crowd with a put-back dunk.

For all of the first-half highlights, the team’s offense was average in comparison to Saturday’s record-setting win. A 55 percent shooting percentage proved efficient for the Lakers, but 13 turnovers caused the offense to feel stagnant at times.

“I think, game-by-game, we’re getting our chemistry down and getting better,” said junior guard James Thomas, who led all scorers with 21 points. “I can tell every game that it’s getting better and better. We just need to practice hard every day and work on it.”

The GVSU defense came up strong again as well, holding the Cougars to only 18 first-half points.

“We did a good job stopping their scorer (senior D.J. Baisden) in the first half, which probably set our defense up for some opportunities,” Wesley said. “It was a little bit of pick your poison.”

The defense, which saw success with a full-court press and zone, had an adverse effect on Spring Arbor’s top scorers. Both Baisden and fellow-senior Willie Pickvet struggled throughout the game in converting only 4-of-11 shots and turning the ball over five times.

Despite a tough night for its top seniors, Spring Arbor fought point-for-point with the Lakers in the second half, scoring 17 more points than they did in the first while finding success around the basket.

“Certainly we want to work to protect our basket and our defensive rotations and breakdowns.” said Wesley, whose team allowed Spring Arbor to shoot 48 percent from the field. “All of our big men we’re playing are relatively new to the position, and when the defense breaks down at the end of the play, it gets to those guys, so they have to get more comfortable with that.”

GVSU’s offense feasted on turnovers, and the team’s 11 steals created scoring opportunities throughout the game. The defense’s ability to create offense from turnovers offset half-court struggles for the Lakers.

“I think it all goes hand-in-hand when you’re getting stops. When you play great defense, you get great full court opportunities,” Wesley said. “I’m kind of cautiously optimistic going forward. I’d love to dominate every game, but we know there’s things we always need to work on.”

After playing two games in five days, the Lakers will get a week-long break before their next game at home against St. Joseph’s College (Ind.), the team that bounced GVSU from the NCAA Tournament last season.

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