Jay Bushen


SUBHEAD: Carbajal, Lakers run past Northwood to keep tourney hopes alive

By Jay Bushen

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Offensively, there was plenty of love to go around for a handful of Grand Valley State men’s basketball players on Valentine’s Day.

In a game they really had to have, five GVSU players combined to score 77 points as the Lakers cruised to an impressive 80-62 home victory over Northwood on Saturday night.

The win keeps GVSU in the five-team race for the eighth and final GLIAC Tournament bid. The Lakers will need some help with only three games remaining, but there’s still a shot at keeping the program’s 10-year streak of tournament appearances intact.

“We were just clicking tonight,” said GVSU forward Ricky Carbajal, who notched game highs with 23 points, 13 rebounds and three assists. “We weren’t playing selfish – we had three guys with over 15 points – and we were playing well together.”

Carbajal’s double-double was his second in as many home games. The Munster, Ind. native used his quickness to dice up Northwood’s defense down low, shooting 7-of-10 from the field and 9-of-9 from the free-throw line. He also had one steal and one block.

GVSU guards Ryan Sabin and Luke Ryskamp, who scored 21 points apiece in the team’s 78-66 loss at No. 24 Lake Superior State on Thursday night, netted 17 and 16, respectively. Point guard Darren Kapustka chipped in with 11 points, three assists and two steals.

Junior transfer A.J. Hayes provided a noticeable spark off the bench after missing 14 straight games with a hamstring injury, scoring 10 points in just 16 minutes.

“I thought having A.J. back was a big thing, too,” said GVSU coach Ric Wesley. “Just having another aggressive player, an offensive weapon on the floor made everybody more confident. It made our offense that much more effective.”

When the Lakers and Timberwolves last met at the Bennett Center on Jan. 24, it was all Northwood in the early goings. With a barrage of dunks, the T-Wolves took a 41-30 advantage to the locker room before dispatching the Lakers, 78-70, at the final buzzer.

GVSU flipped the script this time around with quick-handed defensive efforts in the first half. Northwood shot 9-of-30 in the opening frame (30 percent), turning the ball over six times. The Lakers led 32-25 at the break.

As it often does, GVSU’s defense led to offense. And offensively, GVSU was just getting started.

The Lakers rallied off a 20-7 run to start the second stanza as Sabin and his backcourt comrades stayed in attack mode. Hayes’ 3-pointer from Carbajal gave GVSU its largest lead of the game, 20 points, at the 13:38 mark.

“I don’t know where we’ve been – hopefully this is the team that we’re going to continue to be for a couple more games,” said Sabin, a senior. “We’re not in a good spot, but we’ll see what happens.

“I don’t want to have regrets. I mean the season’s already going bad, I probably have some regrets as it is…but that’s the biggest thing – go out there and just play. Leave it all out there. These are tough games, we don’t know if we’re going to make the tournament but let’s go out there and just play.”

GVSU (7-12 GLIAC) will most likely need three straight wins to have a shot at punching a GLIAC Tournament ticket. To do so, the team must leapfrog Northwood (9-10), Hillsdale (9-10) and Malone (8-10) in the overall conference standings.

It won’t be a walk in the park: The Lakers travel to take on No. 20 Saginaw Valley State (16-3) on Thursday night, return to Allendale for their final home game against Hillsdale (9-10) on Saturday and conclude the 2015 campaign at Ferris State (14-5) on Feb. 26.

Regardless, the season isn’t over yet.

“Certainly tonight was an indication that we still have a lot of fight left in us,” Wesley said.

Notes: GVSU’s 80-point night was only its second in 40-minute games this season…Carbajal, Ryskamp and Sabin all scored 10-plus for the 10th time this season…Four Grand Rapids-area mascots; Buckets, Crash, Griff and Louie; were on hand for some court-side shenanigans and a halftime dance-off with the Laker Dance team.