GVSU showcases preseason promise at MSU

GVL/Kevin Sielaff 
#4 Kat LaPrairie and #22 Brionna Barnett

GVL/Kevin Sielaff

GVL/Kevin Sielaff #4 Kat LaPrairie and #22 Brionna Barnett

Steven Garber

Senior Kat LaPrairie netted a 3-pointer in Grand Valley State University’s first possession of their game at Michigan State University on Sunday, giving the Lakers a 3-0 lead.

The 3-0 lead was the largest GVSU had all game, but the 70-51 loss wasn’t the story for the Lakers. They played a Division I opponent, and persevered from start to finish.

“We could have given up in the second half when we were down 19 points but we stuck together and played all the way to the end,” said GVSU junior Brionna Barnett. “I think that’s what describes Grand Valley State basketball.”

Early in the game, Barnett shuffled around Spartan defenders with a nifty move and sank a circus floater that brought the score to 9-8.

That’s when MSU started to pull away. The Spartans went on a 14-3 run midway through the half.

MSU’s second-chance scoring proved to be GVSU’s disadvantage in the opening frame. The Spartans made good on their second chances with 11 second-chance points to GVSU’s zero at intermission.

“We’re not going to be able to beast those ladies down on the low block,” said GVSU coach Janel Burgess said. “It’s pretty simple: We have to communicate and rebound.”

Ball composure seemed to be a problem for GVSU, as MSU capitalized on eight Laker turnovers for 18 points in the first.

“We don’t want to let teams speed us up,” said Barnett, a transfer from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. “We want to play at our pace no matter what.”

Down 39-22 at halftime, Burgess pointed to six points from a lack of defensive cohesion along with MSU’s points off second-chance opportunities.

A revitalized Laker team came out as the aggressor in the second half, which trimmed the MSU lead to 14 and forced the Spartans to take a timeout with less than eight minutes to play. The Lakers forced MSU to commit eight turnovers in the second half, and gave up just six offensive rebounds.

“We pursued the ball much, much better in the second half,” Burgess said. “I don’t think our communication on defense was bad. I think we did a really, really good job.”

Impressive perimeter defense kept the Lakers in the game. They limited the Spartans to just 22 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

Still, it wasn’t enough to overcome the MSU skyscrapers.

MSU pulled together four 6-foot starters into the lineup and easily won the battle on the boards.

Burgess expressed trust in her freshman, Korynn Hincka – one of the tallest on the team – who came off the bench to net eight points and eight boards, but collectively the Lakers came up short in regards to rebounds (45-32).

That will be a main focus for Burgess’ squad going forward. She also wants max effort on the 50-50 balls and rebounds to help their offense.

“When we finish possessions…we’re going to be able to create some good tempo and get downhill attacks,” Burgess said. “We need to make sure they only get one shot then we’re able to push the ball.”

Despite a loss in this exhibition, it was a fight fueled by some relentless competition from GVSU. Burgess said she was proud of the way her team responded in the second half. And despite not coming away with the win in the Breslin Center, it was nice to see a team that wouldn’t fold when tested.