Men’s basketball team destroyed by Michigan Tech

Brady Fredericksen

Brady Fredericksen

Brady Fredericksen

Win or go home has become a constant theme for the Grand Valley State Unviersity men’s basketball team in the latter part of the season.

Entering Wednesday’s GLIAC Tournament quarterfinal against Michigan Technological Institute, the Lakers had a chance to not only advance to the semi-finals, but also solidfy themselves as an NCAA Tournament team with a win.

In a perfect world, they would have continued their Cinderella-type run, but their run came to an end Wednesday, as the Lakers fell to the visiting Huskies by a final of 74-72.

The Lakers (19-8, 14-5 GLIAC) struggled to keep up with Michigan Tech (17-10, 11-8 GLIAC) in the second half, and fell behind by as many as 16 points. A mix of press defense and missed Tech free throws gave GVSU a shot late, but it was too little too late as the Lakers could not complete another comeback win.

“We played 40 minutes of hard basketball, but the intensity just wasn’t there,” said junior guard James Thomas, who scored a team-high 18 points. “They had everything going there way – made every shot – and we missed a couple lay ups here and there and it cost us the game.”

The Lakers jumped out to a quick 10-point lead in the first three minutes of the game, but became complacent on both sides of the ball as Tech roared back with a 9-0 scoring-run of its own to get back into the game.

Following their hot-shooting start, GVSU’s inability to sustain their 3-point shooting gave Michigan Tech and their pair of big men – Ali Haider and Mike Hojnacki – an opportunity to take over the game.

“I’m disappointed in our play defensively on the interior,” said head coach Ric Wesley, whose team failed to win 20 games for the first time since first season as head coach in 2004-05. “They have a unique inside-outside combination and we knew that that was going to be a challenge, but at the same time I don’t think our guys competed hard enough defensively.”

Tech’s duo tore through the Laker defense, which switched from a variety of zones to a trapping full-court press, en route to 22 points

and 12 rebounds for Haider, as well as 16 points Hojnacki. On top of their scoring, the Lakers’ consistant doubling of Haider opened up the Tech shooters for open 3-pointers.

After trailing by one at the break, the Laker defense allowed the Huskies to shoot a scorching 9-of-13 to start the second half, while the Lakers went cold, shooting only two-of-11 from the field.

“If you’re not consistent with how you come out and play, with the intensity and focus, you end up having games like this,” said senior forward Justin Ringler, who finished with 14 points in his final game at GVSU. “We obviously feel like were more talented than how we played tonight, but if you don’t bring that talent and hustle every game then you’re not going to be successful.”

Down 16 points with eight minutes to go, the Lakers found their game on both sides of the ball and clawed back to cut the lead to seven points with 2:46 remaining.

The play of sophomore guard Breland Hogan, coming off his game-winning shot at Ferris State University on Saturday, proved to be one of the

main reasons GVSU was able to hang around as the starting point guard scored 11 points to go along with three rebounds and three assists.

“I’m proud of the guys for continuing to fight and making a heckuva comeback,” said Wesley. “We just had some humbles and bumbles down the

stretch that you can’t have.”

Down the stretch, the Lakers fought to within three points thanks to their full-court pressure, but after Thomas converted three freethrows

with 31.3 left, the Huskies made their free throws and escaped with the upset win.

Wednesday’s loss effectively ends the season for GVSU. With a regional ranking outside of the automatic qualifying top-8, it the Lakers will be watching the NCAA Tournament from home for the first time since 2005.

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