GVSU men move to 3-2 in Kentucky

GVL/Kevin Sielaff
#20 Ryan Sabin

GVL / Kevin Sielaff

GVL/Kevin Sielaff #20 Ryan Sabin

Jay Bushen

It was a tale of two different offensive performances for the Grand Valley State men’s basketball team in the Kentucky Wesleyan Holiday Tournament.

GVSU (3-2, 0-0 GLIAC) shot 37.8 percent from the field in a 61-50 loss to host Kentucky Wesleyan in the first round of the tournament on Friday, but bounced back with a 78-60 win over North Alabama the next day in the consolation round.

Head coach Ric Wesley said the difference was offensive rhythm and general execution.

“We had everybody on the same page, and we didn’t waste any possessions,” Wesley said of the win. “Yesterday we had a lot of possessions end with traveling violations, poor passing or bad execution where we didn’t give ourselves a chance.”

The Lakers kept pace early against Kentucky Wesleyan, but were unable to consistently score inside against the shot-blocking likes of 6-foot-10 Panther center Ude Ifeanyichukwu.

Ifeanyichukwu had eight blocks in the game, limiting the Lakers to 22 points in the paint.

Sophomore forward Ricky Carbajal led GVSU with 15 points on 4-of-9 shooting to go with six rebounds and a pair of steals. Senior guard Ryan Sabin had 10 points and three boards.

Both players have scored in double figures every game for GVSU, but the team has yet to find a consistent third scorer early in the season.

“We still have people who need to take ownership,” Carbajal said. “Hopefully we can get someone playing that part because we really need it.”

Panther guard Ken-Jah Bosley’s game-high 22 points seemed to be the difference in an otherwise close game. Both teams had 29 rebounds and 15 points off turnovers.

Carbajal said the team leaders spoke to the team after the loss.

“Captains and the more veteran kind of guys told the young guys that it’s a long season,” he said. “There’s a lot of bumps in the road and you can’t just take it, you have to bounce back.”

The bounce-back effort against North Alabama didn’t take long.

Carbajal started the game with a layup 14 seconds in. Senior center Darren Washington blocked a shot shortly thereafter, setting up a 3-pointer from Sabin. A layup from junior guard Ernijs Ansons made it 7-0, then Sabin connected again from long range to make it 10-0.

Buckets from Carbajal and Washington made it 14-0, and the run put GVSU in control early.

“That set the tone for the rest of the game and gave us a lot of confidence,” Sabin said.

The Lions roared back and took a 34-30 lead with less than two minutes to play in the half, but a jumper from Carbajal and another trifecta from Sabin gave GVSU a 35-34 edge at the break.

In the second half, GVSU rallied off an 18-5 run that seemed to swing the momentum for good. The Lions cut the lead to seven, but it wasn’t enough to stop GVSU from heading home with an 18-point win.

“I just thought we were playing well early,” Wesley said. “We pushed the ball, had some transition opportunities. Sabin was much more impressive today, not only hitting shots but creating shots, which was (more than) three times as many as yesterday. His mindset was a lot better today.”

Sabin poured in a game-high 23 points on 5-of-18 shooting from the field and 5-of-8 from downtown. Carbajal had 17 points, sophomore guard Luke Ryskamp added 10 and GVSU shot 45.5 percent from the field as a team.

Junior point guard Darren Kapustka had a solid performance with nine points, six assists and just one turnover while Washington got it done on the glass with 10 rebounds.

“It was good to bury the hatchet and get a win for the way home,” Sabin said. “It would have been a long eight-hour bus ride.”

GVSU begins GLIAC play at Ashland on Thursday and at Lake Erie on Saturday.