GVSU defeats Great Lakes Christian 91-36 in home-opener

Beau Troutman

Former forward Chaz Rollins no longer defends the paint at Fieldhouse Arena. Aaron Hayes no longer runs the point and the Lakers can no longer count on reliable forward Ricardo Carbajal anymore.

The 2016-17 Grand Valley State men’s basketball team has a lot of new faces, but the team gave fans a lot to be excited about in its explosive 91-36 home-opener win over Great Lakes Christian (0-9) at home Wednesday, Nov. 16.

“It’s a big confidence booster,” said sophomore forward Zach West. “That’s what we were kind of lacking on the road—getting energy, being back in font of our home fans who cheer us on and get us hyped.”

It was the Lakers’ first win of the season (1-2) after starting the year with two losses in a road trip to St. Louis in the GLIAC/GLVC Challenge Nov. 11-12.

“We have so many new guys, and so many guys are still trying to establish who they are as players” said GVSU coach Ric Wesley. “Any time they have some level of success, it’s like putting money in the bank to withdraw at a later date.”

The Lakers are coming off of an 18-11 (12-10 GLIAC) season that ended with a 67-58 loss to Ashland in the GLIAC tournament. The Lakers have eight newcomers this season, including five freshmen and two junior college transfers.

GLC started the game on a 7-0 run, but the Lakers closed the first half on a 42-4 run to give them a 42-11 halftime lead. GLC shot 5-of-34 in the first half (13-53 total) and committed 18 turnovers (26 total).

After the 7-0 GLC run, the Lakers took a 12-10 lead early in the first. Senior forward Juwan Starks checked in to the game for the first time off the bench at the 14 minute mark, and rattled off eight straight points on back-to-back three-pointers and a layup to make it 18-10.

Starks finished the night with 10 points. In his final season, he figures to be a key part of a team looking for veteran leadership.

“Luke (Ryskamp) and Trevin (Alexander) are our leaders, and usually they carry the load for us,” Starks said. “I’m just trying to lessen that load and do whatever I can.”

After a GLC timeout, the GVSU scoring onslaught began. The Lakers worked the ball around the perimeter and attacked the GLC zone. Sophomore forward Zach West sank four three-pointers in the last 10 minutes of the half.

That carried the Lakers to their huge halftime lead, and the second half was played mostly by bench players.

Five players finished with double figures in scoring: West (14), Drake Baar (12), Justin Greason (11) Starks and Luke Ryskamp (10). Baar led the team with eight rebounds. Alexander added six boards and a team-high three steals.

Wesley said despite the high score, the Lakers still have a lot to clean up early on. GVSU had 13 turnovers and missed several layups throughout the night.

“We had some silly turnovers,” Wesley said. “We didn’t finish really well on the basket. We missed a lot of shots inside of 10 feet. Justin (Greason) had a lot of easy opportunities. He’s just got to continue to get stronger and more assertive on the basket.”

Replacing Hayes, the once-handy point guard who averaged 13.9 points-per-game in his final season in Laker blue, is Miles Miller, who actually led the Lakers in assists (103) off the bench last season. In his first campaign as a starter so far, Miller is averaging 7.3 PPG and leads the team with 11 assists.

With the loss of Rollins (10.8 PPG, 8.8 rebounds-per-game)—who now plays professionally in the United Kingdom—and Carbajal (9.7 PPG, 5.2 RPG), the Lakers are looking to get any help on the inside they can this season. Standing 6-foot-10, the sophomore Greason would be a strong compliment to Alexander if he’s able to refine his game throughout the course of the season.

The two leaders, Ryskamp and Alexander, have not gotten off to the start some had envisioned—from a statistical standpoint, anyway. Ryskamp shot 6-of-20 in the season opener loss to Quincy and had just two points in the second loss to Missouri-St. Louis. Alexander had a solid game against Quincy, but a 3-of-12 shooting performance against USML.

Wesley doesn’t see this as a problem going forward—rather, one rough stretch in a long season.

“They don’t need to be John Stockton and Karl Malone,” Wesley said. “They just need to be who they are. Both of them at times are trying to do too much and they need to move the ball and just fit in. Their talent will find a way to the top. They just need to relax and let it happen.”

The Lakers’ next game is home Friday, Nov. 18 against Trinity Christian. The Lakers will take part in the St. Joseph’s College Thanksgiving Tournament Nov. 25-26 in Rensselaer, Indiana, and open GLIAC play at home against Findlay Thursday, Dec. 1.