Preview: GVSU women’s basketball to face off against Lake Superior, Ferris State

GVL / Dylan McIntyre. Grand Valley vs. Lewis on Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017.

GVL / Dylan McIntyre. Grand Valley vs. Lewis on Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017.

Brady McAtamney

So far, the year 2018 has been good to the Grand Valley State women’s basketball team. The Lakers came into the year with an 11-2 overall record on the 2017-18 season and have since gone 3-1, outscoring conference opponents by 57 points since the calendar turned to January. Their only loss in that time came against an undefeated, top-ranked Ashland team on the road, a game that the Lakers were very much in up until the final few minutes.

Simply put, things are going well for GVSU, even if their six-game win streak was snapped last week. Coming off of a win at Tiffin, they now return back home—or close to it—for three games in two weeks against three of the four teams at the bottom of the conference.

Thursday, Jan. 18, will see the Lakers hit the road for the DeltaPlex Arena in Grand Rapids for the second of three Downtown Thursday contests this season. They’ll host another set of Lakers from Lake Superior State with tipoff scheduled for 6 p.m.

Lake Superior has not had a strong season. At 0-13 (0-9 GLIAC), they sit dead last in the conference in both record and points scored. None of their games have finished with a single-digit deficit. All in all, they have not done much to strike fear into their opponents’ hearts.

Still, the GVSU players don’t plan to let their guard down.

“(We’ll treat it) just like any other game,” said head coach Mike Williams. “We treat every game the same no matter who you’re playing, obviously, and we try to get better every day we play. We know that Lake State has a new coach, so it has taken time, but they’re playing well as of late.”

Despite a vacant win column, Lake Superior possesses weapons in the post and has five players who are shooting at or above 33 percent from 3-point range. Additionally, they are in the middle of the pack in the GLIAC in points allowed, sitting at seventh place with 1,048.

“From what I remember in past years, it’s just not letting them get in a flow on offense, not letting them run their sets,” said senior center Korynn Hincka. “It’s pressuring the ball and not letting the ball go in the post and doing those things on defense.”

Following the inter-Laker matchup on Thursday, GVSU will finally return to the Fieldhouse Arena on Saturday, Jan. 20, at 6 p.m. to host the archrival Ferris State Bulldogs, who pose a greater threat than Laker Superior but are still 10th place in the GLIAC with a 9-8 (3-6) record.

The Bulldogs are built on offense. They have scored the second most points in the conference (1,353)—only behind Ashland—while having allowed the most in the conference (1,228).

This poses an intriguing matchup for the Lakers, who make their living on defense, as evidenced by their 57.76 points allowed per game, best in the conference. Conversely, the Bulldogs score 79.6 points per game, which is not only top two in the GLIAC, but also the 17th best in Division II.  

“We’ve just been focusing on our defense and just really our toughness on the offensive end to get ready for the next half of the GLIAC play,” said junior guard Natalie Koenig. “The mindset is the same, just like any other game. Coaches don’t care if we’re up by 30 or if we’re in a close game—we’re always going 100 percent just to get the win.”

While the Bulldogs have lost three of their last four contests, the trio of losses came by a combined 12 points against three teams in the top half of the GLIAC, including a 3-point loss to nationally ranked Michigan Tech, meaning they will show up in Allendale lacking no confidence.

Though their next two matchups have a combined conference record of 3-15, the Lakers have their work cut out for them, and they know it. Therefore, they have been working hard to maintain a high level of play to ensure another win streak gets started in sure time.

“Two things: getting better with the ball and then, on offense, getting a little better, a little cleaner with decision-making, a little toughness with the basketball,” Williams said. “Then, on defense, it’s basically just keep finishing and not giving in. I still think we’re giving in on possessions and we’re giving in on stretches, hence Ashland having a 13-0 run at the end of the second quarter and then a 16-2 run to end the game. So, we need to do better with our possessions defensively and not break down.”

With two wins in the coming week, the Lakers will officially be back on another run of victories. Certainly, strong play on both ends of the floor is vital to earning those wins. Just as important, though, is the confidence of the women that they can outplay their opponents and come away with the wins.

“We’re going to get some wins,” Koenig predicted. “That’s all I’ve got to say.”

If the prediction by the Lakers’ starting shooting guard after practice on Tuesday before the two matchups is any indication, GVSU has nothing to worry about.