GVSU men’s basketball to face Wayne State in final ‘Downtown Thursday’ matchup

GVL/ Sheila Babbitt
Justin Greason plows through three defenders and goes up for a shot during the scrimmage against Macomb on Sunday October 22, 2017

GVL/ Sheila Babbitt Justin Greason plows through three defenders and goes up for a shot during the scrimmage against Macomb on Sunday October 22, 2017

Robbie Triano

When the Grand Valley State men’s basketball team takes to court, it’s not hard to see how much each player wants this entire program to succeed. 

Whether it’s been their focus to improve each and every practice or just the pure love they have for the game of basketball, it’s become clear to see that each single individual has bought into the process of making this program great for not only now–but the future.

No, really. You should see these guys practice. The average person student here probably couldn’t spend more than 15 minutes doing these conditioning drills without gasping for air. Not only that, but it looks like they’re actually having fun out there. 

But here’s the harsh reality. The amount of hunger to succeed or the love there is for the sport basketball doesn’t determine if you’re going to be a successful program. 

Wins and losses do. 

And with an 11-11 overall record (6-8 GLIAC), the Lakers will have to play their best basketball during their last six regular-season contests to prove how successful they can be in order to clinch a spot in the GLIAC Tournament. 

The first of their final six steps starts against the Wayne State Warriors (11-8 overall, 9-5 GLIAC) in the final installment of the “Downtown Thursdays” series at the DeltaPlex Arena on Thursday, Feb. 8. Tip-off will start at 6 p.m., while the women’s game will start at 8 p.m. 

Tickets are just $5 for students and $10 for all other fans. For more information on tickets, visit www.gvsulakers.com, or you can purchase your tickets at the DeltaPlex Arena box office. 

The Lakers dropped their first contest against the Warriors 76-73 on the road Nov. 30, 2017. But to compare the beginning of the season to where they are now would not be fair with the amount of progress this team has made, according to GVSU head coach Ric Wesley. 

“It was a time of the year where we were really searching for ourselves,” Wesley said regarding their 3-7 overall start to the season. “We were just a lot different than where we are now.”

A major reason for that sudden emergence has come from the play of freshman forward Jake Van Tubbergen. Besides leading the team in field-goal percentage (58 percent), rebounds per game (6.2), and second in points (10.9), Van Tubbergen has proven to be versatile enough to open up the offense for the rest of his teammates. 

Because of that, the Lakers have found their strengths on the offensive side. GVSU currently ranks third in the GLIAC in points per game (78.0) and 3-point percentage (37.8).

However, the Lakers will face the task of breaking down a strong Wayne State defense. In the entire GLIAC, the Warriors are second best in fewest points allowed per game (67.5) and first in opponent 3-point percentage (29.6).

Though the Lakers usually depend on their strong 3-point shooting from Hunter Hale and Ben Lubitz, they also have offensive options—like senior center Drake Baar and senior guard Chris Dorsey—to get buckets inside. In terms of getting those players open, none lead the charge better than senior guard Myles Miller with his ability to drop dimes and create an open shot.

Along with their defense, the Lakers will have to focus on slowing down the Warriors’ senior point guard Ronald Booth on offense. Standing at 5 feet 7 inches, Booth currently leads his team in scoring with 16.1 points per game. Matching up to guard Booth will be GVSU point guard Myles Miller, who is recently recovering from the flu and an ankle injury.

“We know it’s going to be a physical matchup, and it has been during each of my 14 years here at GVSU,” Wesley said. “It’ll be interesting to see the intensity each team brings at a professional venue like the DeltaPlex.”

The top eight teams in the conference will qualify for the postseason GLIAC Tournament, and the Lakers currently sit in seventh. With the GLIAC being one of the more dominant conferences in Division II, Wesley just wants to see his team qualify for the tournament before making any more goals.

“I feel confident that we can play against anyone in our conference on a given night, but again, we are what our record says we are,” Wesley said. “In our conference, getting into the tournament is a significant accomplishment. 

“I look at the teams below us, and those teams could give even the top teams a run for their money.”

Along with their Thursday matchup, the Lakers will also face Davenport University on Saturday, Feb. 10, at the GVSU Fieldhouse Arena at 8 p.m.