GVSU sweeps NMU, MTU in home series

GVL/Luke Holmes
Freshman, Justin Greason (no.24) plays tight defense. The Lakers Defeated Northern 83-63.

GVL/Luke Holmes Freshman, Justin Greason (no.24) plays tight defense. The Lakers Defeated Northern 83-63.

Adam Knorr

The Grand Valley State men’s basketball team spoiled long bus rides for two Upper Peninsula teams over the weekend, trouncing Northern Michigan (4-10, 2-8 GLIAC) and Michigan Tech (5-9, 4-6 GLIAC) at Fieldhouse Arena.

In Thursday’s tilt, the Lakers started slow, but kept expanding their lead en route to an 83-63 domination that wasn’t as close as the score made it seem.

“(I’m) happy that we were able to come home. We had a good week last week finishing with a good win at Malone, so I thought it was important to come back and keep the momentum going,” said GVSU head coach Ric Wesley.

Tight defense, fast break buckets and scoring from a number of different contributors helped the Lakers (13-3, 7-3 GLIAC) crush the Wildcats’ upset hopes.

The game started as a relatively back-and-forth affair, as GVSU held just a 20-17 lead before the chasm began to open. Senior guard Luke Ryskamp hit a pair of free throws to stretch the lead to 22-17, and GVSU went on a 24-6 run to end the half with a 44-23 lead.

The second half was much of the same for the Lakers. GVSU’s offense spread the ball around as the Lakers drained a number of open looks. As has often been the case for GVSU this season, its offense was sparked first by tight defense.

With just over six minutes to go in the game, senior Chaz Rollins broke free and finished with a dainty dunk, extending GVSU’s lead to a game-high 32 points.

NMU closed the gap to its ultimate tally of 20 points thanks to a late run in garbage time.

The Lakers were paced by Ryskamp, who poured in a game-high 18 points. Junior Trevin Alexander added 16 points, 14 of which came in the first half, and senior Aaron Hayes dropped 16 of his own.

Senior Ricardo Carbajal scored 13, and Rollins flirted with a double-double, scoring 10 points and pulling down nine rebounds.

The Lakers shot 47.5 percent as a team, despite an abysmal 3-of-16 showing from behind the arc in the game. GVSU also held a massive advantage in the paint, scoring 40 points to NMU’s 16.

Despite a season-best defensive showing in the first half of the MTU game, the Lakers had to weather a late storm to cling to a 64-53 win on Saturday.

“We just came out determined, aggressive defensively — that was our focus. Just defend, protect the home court and rebound,” Rollins said.

In an ugly first half, GVSU stymied MTU’s offense, which scored just 15 points in the first half – a season-low for Laker opponents. MTU’s leading scorers on the season, freshmen Kyle Monroe and Bryan Heath, shot just 1-of-11 in the first half, despite averaging a combined 31.6 points per game entering the contest.

But the second half was a different story.

The Huskies outscored the Lakers 38-35 in the latter stanza, and managed to chip the deficit to just four points at 48-44 with under seven minutes to go. On the next GVSU possession, however, freshman Zach West drilled his fourth 3-pointer of the afternoon to keep the Huskies from completing the comeback.

“I thought our defense wasn’t quite as focused (in the second half),” Wesley said. “They took it inside a little more in the second half and they got in the bonus a lot quicker than we did, and that makes a difference in how you can play defense.”

A late triple from Trevin Alexander and calmly converted free throws down the stretch secured the win for GVSU, which is in a four-way tie for second place in the GLIAC North at 7-3.

Again, the Lakers saw a number of players contribute to the score sheet. Ryskamp led GVSU with 14 points, as West and Hayes each added 12. Rollins snagged the double-double he missed the game before, scoring 11 points and ripping down a season-best 16 rebounds, including seven on the offensive glass.

Despite scoring just two points, senior guard Darren Kapustka continued to be a key component to GVSU’s offensive success, handling the point in place of Hayes and setting up a number of Lakers for open looks. Kapustka had nine assists and two turnovers on the weekend.

“I think we’re starting to move the ball better on offense,” Ryskamp said. “It starts with (Darren Kapustka), he’s doing a phenomenal job getting the ball to the shooters, so we have to work on rewarding him more for doing that.”

The Lakers will hit the road for a crucial GLIAC tilt on Thursday, as they head to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan for a game against Lake Superior State (12-4, 7-3 GLIAC).