Lakers fall short in upset bid of rival Ferris State

GVL / Eric Coulter
Junior Tyrone Lee (21) passing to junior Tony Peters (22)

Eric Coulter

GVL / Eric Coulter Junior Tyrone Lee (21) passing to junior Tony Peters (22)

Brady Fredericksen

Ferris State University normally ranks as the biggest game on a Grand Valley State University sport’s team’s schedule, and the timing of the men’s basketball team’s latest matchup with their rivals taking place at home on senior night made it that much bigger.

Despite the energy and excitement brought by the crowd of 2,606, the Lakers (14-12, 10-9 GLIAC) trailed by as many as 12 points and failed to contain Ferris State (16-10, 13-6 GLIAC) big man Jerrell Sanders, who finished with 16 points in the Bulldogs’ 63-56 victory.

“It hurt, I mean to be a senior and for this to be the last time we play in this building, I just thought they wanted it more than us,” said senior guard James Thomas, who finished with 12 points and a team-high eight rebounds. “They worked harder than us in all facets of the game.”

The first half saw both teams struggle offensively, but it was the Lakers who struggled to get off to a fast start, missing their first seven shots of the game before senior center Nick Waddell scored on a put back of his own miss. The senior had a strong game offensively, accounting for a team high 16 points to go with three rebounds.

But it was the Ferris State offense that controlled the game in the first half. While GVSU’s three guards accounted for only two points at the half, the Bulldogs’ backcourt combined for 13 points and seven assists in the half.

“We changed our defense, we did some different things defensively and I did think it threw them off,” Wesley said. “But again, there were a lot of wayward shots that came off in strange places.

The Lakers came out in the second half switching on screens rather than going through them, which led to some early success as the Lakers got within a basket at 32-34.

Sanders made the Lakers pay for defending him one-on-one, mostly with junior forward Tyrone Lee, by scoring 10 points in the second half to go with a game-high seven rebounds.

“He’s a fifth year senior, he’s been around for awhile,” Wesley said. “I just thought his physical prowess, his experience and his determination was huge. He’s a tough matchup, he goes from being a small forward to sometimes being a center — he’s a little too big for your small guys and a little too athletic for your big guys.”

GVSU shot only 38.7 percent from the field, but the main culprit in the loss was their struggles on the boards. Despite making only 4-of-22 from 3-point range, Ferris State repeatedly found a way to come away with long offensive rebounds, scoring 23 second-chance points as a result.

“Sometimes the rebound came off in the dead corner, and they were a little quicker, a little more determined to get those 50/50 balls,” Wesley said. “It felt like they got every one of those … that was a huge thing in a close game.”

Their was a final barrage for the Lakers as they cut the lead to 54-58 after a Tyrone Lee dunk with 1:56 left. Lee finished with 15 points and six rebounds, but it wasn’t enough as freshman guard Ryan Sabin’s missed 3-pointer led to a Sanders’ dunk-and-foul, icing the game for Ferris State.

The loss will lock the Lakers into the No. 7 seed in next week’s GLIAC Tournament. They’ll travel to Findlay, Ohio to take on the University of Findlay in a rematch of a Feb. 16 Findlay victory, 68-57.

“We have another big one, Findlay, and you know they shot the ball real well when we played against them,” Waddell said. “After 12 o’clock it’ll be over with. Tomorrow’s a new day, we’ll just learn from it and start off tomorrow and be ready for Findlay.”

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