GVSU men’s basketball closes out regular season with 77-59 loss to Ferris State

GVL/Kevin Sielaff - Luke Ryskamp (23) drives into the paint during the game against Northern Michigan on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 inside the Fieldhouse Arena in Allendale.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL/Kevin Sielaff – Luke Ryskamp (23) drives into the paint during the game against Northern Michigan on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 inside the Fieldhouse Arena in Allendale.

Beau Troutman

It was a tough year to be a team in the GLIAC.

The Grand Valley State men’s basketball team ended the regular season with a 77-59 loss to the Ferris State Bulldogs on the road Thursday, Feb. 23.

With the loss, the Lakers (16-12, 12-9 GLIAC) locked in the No. 7 seed in the 2017 GLIAC Tournament. They will face the No. 2-seeded Findlay Oilers in the first round of the tourney on the road Tuesday, Feb. 28.

The Lakers are nowhere to be found in the NCAA Midwest Regional rankings. The top eight teams from each region get selected to go to the national tournament and GVSU isn’t even in the top 10. For GVSU to make an appearance in the national tournament in March, they would likely need to win the GLIAC Tournament and garner an automatic berth.

Seniors Luke Ryskamp, Trevin Alexander and Juwan Starks know that should they lose to the favored Oilers, it’s the end of their GVSU basketball careers. They plan on doing everything in their power to make sure that doesn’t happen.

“We’re in midseason form right now,” Alexander said. “It’s all or nothing. Win one more game or else we’re going back home. 

“I’m not ready to go back home yet.”

In their final regular season contest, GVSU kept it close with the Bulldogs and only trailed 28-20 at halftime.

At about the 11-minute mark of the second half, GVSU pulled within five points trailing just 44-39. However, the Bulldogs went on an 18-4 run over the next four minutes extending their lead to 62-43, which proved to be too much for the Lakers to overcome.

GVSU coach Ric Wesley said the Bulldogs’ aggressiveness put their defense in bad positions, and they were able to consistently draw fouls on Laker defenders.

“It got away from us a little bit in the second half,” Wesley said. “The calls didn’t go our way on the road, and free throws to me was the difference in the game.”

The Bulldogs shot 15-of-22 from the free throw line in the second half and 21-of-28 for the game. In comparison, the Lakers shot only 8-of-16 from the charity stripe. GVSU had trouble getting past FSU sophomore center Zach Hankins, who finished the night with 10 points, 16 rebounds and six blocks. Hankins leads the nation with 116 blocks this year.

For the Lakers, Ryskamp led the way with 16 points. Sophomore center Justin Greason, who has had 12 points or more in his last four games, had 12 points yet again. Alexander had eight points, 12 rebounds, three blocks and two steals.

GVSU will now turn its attention to the Oilers, who are the No. 22-ranked team in the country right behind the Bulldogs at No. 21.

The Oilers are riding a seven-game win streak and are 14-1 at home this season. They average 85.1 points per game, good for third in the GLIAC. They lead the conference in team field goal percentage (49.8) and steals per game (7.9). They are second in the conference in 3-point field goal percentage (40.7) and assists per game (17).

Findlay is led by junior guard Martyce Kimbrough (20.4 points per game) and junior Taren Sullivan, who resembles Alexander with his all-around play style. He averages 17.6 points per game, 17.4 rebounds per game and 4.2 assists per game.

Kimbrough is coming off of a NCAA DII National Player of the Week honor for the week of Feb. 16. In a two-game span, Kimbrough averaged 35 points per game and shot 57.1 percent from the floor. In a win over Tiffin Thursday, Feb. 16, Kimbrough hit a school record 11 3-pointers on his way to 41 points. In the Oilers’ last game of the season, Kimbrough hit the game-winning, 3-point buzzer beater in overtime over Walsh.

The Lakers know they’ll have their hands full Tuesday night.

“We’ve got to play defense and let them know we’re there,” Ryskamp said. “We’ve just got to let them know that getting 85 points is going to be tough versus us. If we do that, we’ll have a chance.”

The Lakers have the second-best scoring defense in the GLIAC (67.5 opponent points per game). Starks said the goal Tuesday will be not to stop Kimbrough, necessarily, but “contain him.”

GVSU and Findlay met once in the regular season Thursday, Dec. 1, and the Lakers came away with a 61-58 win thanks to a game-winning 3-pointer from Ryskamp. In that game, Kimbrough and Sullivan combined for just 18 points.

The Lakers will rely on Ryskamp (13.6 points per game), Alexander (11.1 points per game, 8.4 rebounds per game) and the GVSU supporting cast to keep their season alive Tuesday night. The winner of that contest will face the winner of Lake Superior State (No. 3 seed) and Ashland (No. 6 seed).

“We’ve had some peaks, but we’ve also had some valleys too,” Ryskamp said. “We find ourselves climbing out of some valleys a lot, but we’ve got to be ready to peak at the right time. Hopefully we’ll be ready to go on Tuesday.”