GVSU men’s hoops splits close weekend

GVL / Kevin Sielaff - Zach West (11) drives to the basket.  The Lakers defeat the Timberwolves of Northwood University with a final score of 66-53 Jan. 24, 2016 in Allendale.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL / Kevin Sielaff – Zach West (11) drives to the basket. The Lakers defeat the Timberwolves of Northwood University with a final score of 66-53 Jan. 24, 2016 in Allendale.

A.A. Knorr

The Grand Valley State men’s basketball team gritted out a much-needed win against Northwood (10-8, 6-6 GLIAC) at Fieldhouse Arena on Jan. 23 to avoid a two-loss weekend.

The Lakers (14-4, 8-4 GLIAC) traveled to Lake Superior State (13-5, 8-4 GLIAC) on Jan. 21, and departed with a gut-wrenching 82-74 overtime loss in a turnover-filled affair.

“Some of it was carelessness,” said GVSU head coach Ric Wesley. “It was a very physical game. Some of the turnovers were things like a charge, they weren’t always necessarily turnovers that led to baskets.

“I don’t know that it felt we were throwing the ball all over the gym, it didn’t feel that way.”

The first half of the Lakers-Lakers tilt was a back-and-forth affair, with LSSU taking a 36-27 lead into halftime thanks to a late 14-6 run to end the half. LSSU struck first in the second half, extending the lead to 11 after a pair of made free throws.

With a steadily expanding margin staring GVSU in the face, it responded. Senior Chaz Rollins kicked off a 10-0 run for GVSU, as it pulled to within 37-36 early in the second half.

LSSU flipped the script, scoring the next seven points to open the lead up to eight points. GVSU came back again, and tied the game at 45-45, but LSSU continued to attack.

Trailing by five late in the game, GVSU needed a quick bucket to have a shot. Junior Trevin Alexander knocked down a 3-pointer, and Myles Miller added another bucket to tie the game at 69-69 heading into overtime.

GVSU couldn’t muster up any late magic, however, and LSSU owned the overtime period to pull out an 82-74 win.

Miller led the Lakers with 15 points, and Alexander added eight points and nine rebounds. GVSU committed 28 turnovers, and LSSU scored 33 points off those turnovers.

In the second game of the weekend, GVSU came out flat, perhaps succumbing to the fatigue that set in following the LSSU game. The Lakers fell behind 29-26 heading into halftime, but a ferocious rebounding performance down the stretch helped GVSU secure its 14th win of the season – besting last year’s total of 13.

Senior guard Aaron Hayes scored 20 points to lead GVSU, which outscored Northwood 40-24 in the second half. The Lakers limited Timberwolves’ leading scorer Maurice Jones to just 11 points on 4-of-15 shooting. Jones had averaged just over 21 points per game heading into the contest.

Coming out of the gate in the second half, the Lakers gave up some early points and fell behind 36-28, but forced the ball into the paint and found success on the block.

“That’s always the game plan,” Hayes said. “I think we have the most versatile big men in the GLIAC, so that’s always our focus is to get it down in the paint and we work from there.”

GVSU out-rebounded Northwood 29-15 in the second half, led by Alexander’s game-high 10. Rollins added an energetic nine boards in limited time, while guard Luke Ryskamp swooped in to snag eight of his own.

“We were soft around the basket (in the first half),” Alexander said, “Coach got on us about not making layups, not playing hard. Our energy was down – for us to have a season like we had last year, our goals and our aspirations for a ring, it just clicked in our head, we need to play. We need this now.”

Hayes’ 20 points led all scorers, while Alexander added 12 on 50 percent shooting. The Lakers shot just 35.5 percent as a team on 22-of-62, but held Northwood to 34.6 percent on 18-of-52 shooting.

“Down the stretch it just comes winning time and you got to step it up,” Wesley said. “I’d like to think our depth helped. Justin (Greason) came off the bench, gave us some good minutes there. We had enough in the tank to get it done.”

The Lakers currently sit at fourth place in the GLIAC, trailing Saginaw Valley State, Ferris State and Findlay.

GVSU next hits the court on Jan. 28 against SVSU (14-4, 10-2 GLIAC) before returning home for a tilt against Hillsdale (11-5, 7-5 GLIAC) on Jan. 30.