Lakers beat Findlay, lose to Wayne State

Justin Ringler attempts to add two more points to the score during THursdays game against Findlay. The Lakers came out on top with a 72 - 66 win.

Eric Coulter

Justin Ringler attempts to add two more points to the score during THursday’s game against Findlay. The Lakers came out on top with a 72 – 66 win.

Brady Fredericksen

For a team that had won only three of its last six games, the Grand Valley State University men’s basketball team’s matchup with No. 3 University of Findlay represented a breaking point for the Lakers’ season – win and grab an NCAA Tournament berth, or lose and be on the proverbial tournament bubble.

The Lakers (18-6, 13-4 GLIAC) seized the former and extended their home winning streak to 13 games by defeating the visiting Oilers (21-2, 14-2 GLIAC), 72-66.

Paced by junior guard James Thomas’ 18 points, GVSU fought punch-for-punch with the vaunted Oilers throughout the first half. After starting flat offensively in their last game against Lake Erie College, the Lakers pounded the glass and used crisp ball movement to find early momentum.

“I’ve been doing my role on the team, and that’s just to shoot, score, rebound and play good defense,” said Thomas, who also had five rebounds. “With the injuries, I’ve had to pick that up more, and I just knew in my mind that I was capable of doing that.”

Rebounding proved to be one of the biggest differences in the game for the Lakers as they out-boarded Findlay 38-26, including 16 boards from the GVSU guards.

As the first half came to a close, senior forward Justin Ringler missed a 3-pointer with the clock was winding down, but the shot was put back in by sophomore guard Tony Peters and gave GVSU a 28-27 lead going into the half.

“Rebounding is a big thing for us, and we’ve been harping on that the last few weeks- we’ve got to rebound the best we can,” said Peters, who scored 11 points off the bench. “I just went in there and crashed on the last possession and it landed in my lap and put it back in.”

Coming out in the second half, the Lakers broke the game wide open with a 15-2 scoring run that put the Oilers in a position they’ve been in only once this season- a 91-68 loss at Wayne State University on Jan. 8.

“It’s always a game of runs, and that was our run,” said GVSU head coach Ric Wesley. “But certainly they showed character by fighting right down to the end.”

The Lakers’ run was fueled by hot shooting from their guards and defense from their big men. Juniors Wes Trammell (10 points) and Alvin Storrs (9 points) carried the bench scoring with Peters while the front-court duo of Asauhn Tatum and Nick Carreri combined for seven blocks.

“I thought the combination of Asauhn (Tatum) and Nick Carreri did a great job of protecting our basket,” said Wesley, whose career record at home with GVSU is now 105-10. “It’s hard to win without having a big guy to protect the basket.”

Despite the magnitude of the game, the Lakers kept their cool throughout the game and did their job defensively on Findlay’s starting guards.

Oiler senior Nathan Hyde scored 22 points while fellow guard junior Kyle Caiola added 18 points. At one point late in the second half, the duo almost single-handedly cut a 12-point GVSU lead to 1 point, but the combined effort of the entire Laker roster was enough to overcome Findlay’s two-man show.

Unfortunately for GVSU, the good times lasted only two days as the Lakers fell in a defensive struggle to Wayne State University (19-6, 14-4 GLIAC) on Saturday, 59-52. The game, which was senior night for starting forward Justin Ringler and walk-on guard Josh Roberson, was a low-scoring affair from the opening tip.

The Lakers began the game slow offensively, trailing by as many as seven early, but they rallied to pull within three multiple times in the half.

“I don’t think we had a hangover from the Findlay game, but the way Wayne State plays, they’re going to muddle you up a bit,” said Ringler, who scored 16 points in his final regular season game at Fieldhouse Arena.

GVSU will look to shake off this loss in its regular-season finale at Ferris State University Saturday.

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