First-half deficit to Dayton too big for men’s basketball team

GVL Archive / Brian B. Sevald
GVSUs KLen Morris jumps for a layup against Wayne States heavy defense in a past game

GVL Archive / Brian B. Sevald GVSU’s K’Len Morris jumps for a layup against Wayne State’s heavy defense in a past game

Brady Fredericksen

The Grand Valley State University men’s basketball team fell to the Division I University of Dayton Flyers 77-66 Monday in the season’s exhibition opener in Dayton, Ohio.

While the Lakers saw strong outings from junior college transfer James Thomas (20 points) and senior Justin Ringler (14 points), the team never fully recovered from a 14-0 Dayton run to start the game.

“Anytime you get down that much you want to get it all back right away,” said Ringler, who played a team-high 32 minutes. “There’s no 14-point play, so you have to chip away, and you have to get back to playing your pace.”

Playing without key senior contributors in guard K’Len Morris and center Mike Przydzial, GVSU recovered from the early deficit and pulled within six points midway through the half. The team’s success with and without Ringler on the floor was valuable as the Lakers fought through another Dayton run to cut the lead to four with less than 1 minute to play in the first.

“We play a lot of guys, so we hope to be able to play well and execute no matter who is in the game,” said GVSU head coach Ric Wesley. “We’re still a work in progress rotation-wise, but it was encouraging to see good things happening with our top player on the bench.”

Dayton’s early run set the tone, and the play of senior forwards Chris Wright (11 points) and Josh Parker (14 points) paced the Flyers. Led by Ringler’s seven first-half points, the Lakers looked to steal momentum entering the half. The senior energized the team in his return to the game, reaching the foul line two straight times and cutting the Dayton lead to four.

After Ringler’s fourth make at the line, Dayton freshman point guard Juwan Staten took the ball coast-to-coast for lay-up at the buzzer. The shot extended the Flyers’ lead to 38-32 and stunted the momentum GVSU had gained.

“Momentum is a hard thing to gauge. That play was a breakdown on our part and obviously not a good way to end the half,” Wesley said. “Give them credit. They were at home, and both halves they came out with great aggressiveness. We just couldn’t match it.”

The Flyers got out to another fast start in the second half and extended their lead to 11. With his team struggling, Wesley went to a zone defense aimed at slowing down the Flyers’ inside game and forcing them into perimeter shots.

Dayton missed five of the first six shots against the zone, and the Lakers’ capitalized thanks to three-point baskets from sophomore guard Wes Trammell and Thomas.

“In these kinds of games where you’re not familiar with the opponent, you have to try to help your defense. We had a little more success with the zone,” Wesley said. “We went to it because, with their lineups on the floor, we thought they were susceptible to it.”

Ultimately, Dayton made adjustments and found the holes in the zone. Junior guard Chris Johnson made consecutive three-pointers and extended the lead back to 49-38.

Down 12 with nine minutes to go, the Lakers mounted their final charge. Keyed by freshman center Asauhn Tatum’s block on Flyer center Josh Benson, the ensuing offensive play led to one of Thomas’ team-high six three-pointers.

A Dayton turnover on the ensuing possession lead to sophomore point guard Breland Hogan being sent to the line, where he made one-of-two to cut the Flyers’ lead to eight.

However, that was as close as the Lakers would get. The Flyers kept their offense going in the final minutes – countering every punch the Lakers threw – to hold on for the 11-point win.

“We fought hard out there, and we weren’t that overmatched physically or emotionally,” Wesley said. “They’re a little bigger, stronger and athletic, but we competed just as hard as they did.”

Not to be overshadowed was the play of the bench. All 10 Lakers who saw action scored, and solid play from Trammell (seven points) and junior Nick Carreri (five rebounds) gave the Lakers a needed boost.

Another bright spot for the Lakers’ was their three-point shooting. The team shot only 29 percent from beyond the arc last season, but shot 50 percent from deep thanks to six makes from the transfer Thomas.

“I think my teammates were just driving and finding me on the wing,” said Thomas, who transferred from Grand Rapids Community College. “The other team was helping off of me, and I don’t think they knew that I could shoot as well as I did. My teammates just found me in the right spots, and I knocked the shots down.”

The Lakers open the regular season on Nov. 13 at home against Marygrove College.

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