Men’s basketball splits two games in final regular season home series

GVL/Kevin Sielaff - Seniors from the mens basketball team are celebrated after the game against Northern Michigan on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 inside the Fieldhouse Arena in Allendale.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL/Kevin Sielaff – Seniors from the men’s basketball team are celebrated after the game against Northern Michigan on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 inside the Fieldhouse Arena in Allendale.

Beau Troutman

Seniors Trevin Alexander, Luke Ryskamp and Juwan Starks played their final regular season home games this weekend.

Time will tell if the trio will ever play at Fieldhouse Arena again.

The Grand Valley State men’s basketball team split its final two-game home series of the season with a 74-57 win over the Michigan Tech Huskies Thursday, Feb. 16 and an 82-77 loss to the Northern Michigan Wildcats on senior day Saturday, Feb. 18.

The split put the Lakers’ record at 16-11 (12-8 GLIAC). Had the Lakers defeated the struggling Wildcats (8-17, 6-14 GLIAC), they would have taken sole possession of third place in the GLIAC. Instead, they are in a four-way tie for third place with Lake Superior State, Wayne State and Michigan Tech.

Making things even more complicated is Ashland at seventh place in the conference at 16-9 (11-8 GLIAC) and Hillsdale at eighth (15-11, 11-9). The Lakers, who clinched a spot in the GLIAC Tournament with the win over the Huskies, play the first-ranked Ferris State Bulldogs (23-4, 17-3 GLIAC) on the road next Thursday, Feb. 23 in the regular season finale.

A win over the Bulldogs could be the difference in finishing third or eighth in the final conference standings, as well as whether or not the Lakers will host or travel for their first tournament game.

“It’s overwhelming to even think about,” said GVSU coach Ric Wesley. “We got enough stuff to think about just playing the games, let alone the standings. I’ve never gone into a game thinking it was advantageous to lose, we just spend all of our time figuring out a way to win. That’s what we’ll do this week.”

In the first game of the weekend against the Huskies, the Lakers built a 38-22 halftime lead. However, Huskies’ guard Bryan Heath scored eight straight points to start the second half to make it 38-30, forcing GVSU to use an early timeout. After Heath’s run, it was Alexander’s turn to go on a run of his own. It was Alexander’s first game back after a knee injury that kept him out of GVSU’s win over LSSU Saturday, Feb. 11.

Alexander, who played only two minutes in the first half after picking up a couple of quick fouls, had a double-double in the second half alone. After just scoring three points in the first—on what was the first field goal of the game—Alexander recorded 15 points, 10 rebounds and two steals for the game, shooting 6-of-7 from the floor (2-2 from 3-point territory). The Lakers quickly pulled away from the Huskies, owning a healthy lead for the rest of the game.

Sophomore center Justin Greason added 13 points with seven rebounds and junior point guard Chris Dorsey had 12 points with six rebounds and three assists.

“It takes a lot off Luke and Juwan and all the other players when I take on a scoring role,” Alexander said. “If I can do my part, make the defense work, it opens up lanes for everyone else.”

The second game against the Wildcats started with a pregame tribute to the three seniors, but that was the lone highlight of the day for the Lakers. Though the offense played well, GVSU’s defense could not stop the Wildcats’ shooting effort led by guards Naba Echols, Sam Taylor and Marcus Matelski.

“I thought they just played really well,” Wesley said. “We never did a really good job of finding a defense that got them under control. They were the aggressors the whole game.”

Those three combined for 59 of the Wildcats’ 82 points. The team shot 54.5 percent from the floor, including 13-of-28 from beyond the arc. Taylor had 24, Echols had 21 and Matelski had 14. GVSU’s largest and only lead was a two-point advantage in the first few minutes of the game.

Alexander’s performance carried over from Thursday, and he finished with 17 points with nine rebounds. With his performance, he became the 10th leading rebounder in GVSU history with 671 career boards, passing Ron Polus (1981-1985).

Greason went off against the Wildcat defense, totaling 24 points and eight rebounds on the day. Greason shot 7-of-9 from the field and 10-of-12 from the free throw line, and dominated after NMU center Myles Howard sat the bench after getting into foul trouble. Greason, who began the season as a role player who split time with junior center Drake Baar, has proven himself as a starter with his development this season.

“It’s mainly just confidence,” Greason said. “Just keeping my confidence high, doing the same thing in practice that the starters are doing every day, I just keep it going and trust in the process.”

Starks added 11 points with four assists and Ryskamp added eight points in what could be their final home game as Lakers.

Ryskamp says it’s surreal that he and his fellow seniors are in their last days at GVSU, but it’s not time to think about legacy or anything else just yet.

“Every year we see it,” he said. “I remember being a freshman. It’s here now and it’s over, but we’ve got to move forward now because we still have something to play for.”