GVSU men’s basketball falls short in regular-season finale against Ferris

GVL / Robbie Triano
Mens basketball vs Ferris State University on February 24th, 2018.

GVL / Robbie Triano Men’s basketball vs Ferris State University on February 24th, 2018.

Robbie Triano

The Grand Valley State men’s basketball team has had quite the regular season. 

From a disappointing 3-7 record to start, to winning five straight and then finally clinching a GLIAC Tournament berth, the Lakers have experienced every high and low imaginable. 

With their postseason ticket already clinched, the Lakers had nothing to lose—although bragging rights were on the line—in their final regular-season matchup on the road against the No. 3 Ferris State Bulldogs on Saturday, Feb. 25.

The Lakers did their best to spoil FSU’s Senior Day—holding the Bulldogs to their second-lowest point total this season—but what pulled them away from grabbing the win was their inability to stay out of foul trouble. By the final buzzer, FSU walked away victorious 75-64. With the loss, the Lakers’ record fell to an even 14-14 overall (9-11 GLIAC), while Ferris won their 17th straight contest to improve to 29-1 overall (19-1 GLIAC).

Against a likely National Championship contender, GVSU head coach Ric Wesley couldn’t put the blame on his team’s performance and effort. 

“The numbers were stacked against us here,” Wesley said. “They’re one of the top teams in the country on their Senior Day playing for nothing but pride. Our guys came out there and gave everything they could with only one day’s worth of prep. There was a lot of things working against us.”

Coming home from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, at 2:30 a.m. after an 85-73 loss to No. 2 ranked GLIAC Conference foe Lake Superior State, the decks were stacked against the Lakers preparation-wise. 

But against their rival, the Lakers came out in the first half focusing on stopping the Bulldogs offensively. Against the top-ranked offense in the GLIAC—averaging 86.6 points per game—the Lakers held Ferris to only 25 points in the first half. While the Lakers found their success on defense, the offense sputtered as the Bulldogs did their job to prevent GVSU from taking any 3-point opportunities.

“They just do such a great job getting up into your body,” Wesley said. “Ferris knew what our strengths were. Credit to their coaching staff for getting their guys prepared.”

In the first contest between these two teams, GVSU had walked into halftime heads high by keeping the game narrowly close, but then suffered from FSU’s burst of offense in the second half.

History repeated itself as FSU opened the half to a 7-0 run by aggressively attacking the basket to draw shooting fouls. While this was a smart move for the Bulldogs, some questionable calls forced GVSU to go to their bench early with players in foul trouble.

“We just got taken out of our game,” Wesley said. “Against such a good team, your margin for error is so slim. When we can’t play our best players because of fouls, it puts a lot of pressure on our bench to succeed.”

The Lakers gave their best fight to keep the game within striking distance, holding FSU to only 39 percent from the field and 29 percent from behind the arc. 

But simply put, FSU is just the better team, and the Bulldogs simply had some clutch late-game 3-pointers against a heavy defense to pull the game too far away. 

GVSU senior center Drake Baar led all scorers with 19 points (9-18 FG) along with seven rebounds. Junior center Justin Greason also added 12 points, while senior Myles Miller added 10.

The Lakers’ next contest will be in the GLIAC Tournament Quarterfinals against Lake Superior State on Wednesday, Feb. 28, in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. If the Lakers lose the contest, their season will reach its end.