GVSU hoops goes 2-1 over Holiday break

GVL/Luke Holmes
Trevin Alexander shoots the free throw on Wednesday Jan. 13, 2016. The Lakers Defeated Northern 83-63.

GVL/Luke Holmes Trevin Alexander shoots the free throw on Wednesday Jan. 13, 2016. The Lakers Defeated Northern 83-63.

Beau Troutman

Whatever New Year’s resolutions Grand Valley State reserve center Justin Greason made appear to be working.

Greason led the Lakers in maybe his best game of the season with 18 points and ten rebounds in a 73-62 win over the Lake Erie Storm (2-14, 1-7 GLIAC) on the road Saturday, Jan. 7. The Lakers improved to 9-5 (5-2 GLIAC), putting them in a three-way tie with Ferris State and Lake Superior State for third place in the conference.

“I told (Greason) they’re a small team, establish yourself early, we’ll be looking for you down there,” said GVSU senior Trevin Alexander, who finished with 13 points and five boards. “Just establish yourself early down in the paint and force coach to keep you in the game, and he did that, I applaud him. I told him, ‘Keep doing that. Every game, double-double, easy money.’”

It was Greason’s fourth start of the season and his first since Nov. 16. Greason filled in for starting center Drake Baar, who was out with an ankle injury. To put his performance into perspective, Greason played a combined total of three points and four rebounds in 16 minutes played.

He said his performance Saturday was a confidence booster.

“We have an advantage on most teams,” Greason said. “We have two big guys that can play pretty well, so I think if we play at a high level, we’re going to be a hard team to beat.”

The win over the storm was the Lakers’ first game in over two weeks. The Lakers played three games in total over the Holiday break, and split a two-game home series at the GVSU Fieldhouse. GVSU fell to the Tiffin Dragons 80-72 Thursday, Dec. 17, but bounced back with an 87-75 win over the Ashland Eagles Saturday, Dec. 19.

Senior forward Juwan Starks made three out of his five total starts over the three game Holiday-stretch, and played his best basketball of the season. He was starting in place of regular starter sophomore Zach West, who had his playing time reduced due to a concussion.

Starks took advantage of his opportunity, scoring 23 points in the loss to the Dragons and a career-high 26 in the win over the Eagles. Starks, who is averaging 9.9 points-per-game in 22 minutes a game this season, is now in the starting five going forward for the Lakers after his performance in not just those two games, but the last several games. Starks has made his presence felt coming off the bench as a scrappy defender and a guy the team can count on for hustle plays.

West will still see substantial time off the bench, and GVSU coach Ric Wesley plans to use him in a more varied role.

“(Starks) has really picked it up in the last month or so,” Wesley said. “Senior, kind of knows what’s going on. I think he’s made a conscious effort to be more vocal. His practices have been better, he’s taking on more of a leadership role.”

Along with Starks’ performance, Alexander and senior Luke Ryskamp both scored in double figures against the Dragons, Eagles and Storm.

After shaking off the rust against the Storm, the Lakers will get back into the swing of things with games against Northwood Thursday, Jan. 12 and Lake Superior State Saturday, Jan. 14. With the fall semester in the books, Alexander wants to see his team compete near or at the top of the conference in 2017.

“We have to have an ‘us’ mentality,” Alexander said. “Us versus the GLIAC. We were picked to be in the middle of the pack, so we’ve got to have the underdog mentality. (Other teams) got to prove to me why they were picked above us.”