GVSU drops two at home, falls to 6-9 in the GLIAC

GVL / Sheila Babbitt

GVL / Sheila Babbitt

Kellen Voss

After beating the seventh ranked Ashland Eagles on the road last weekend, the Grand Valley State basketball team was thirsting to keep the momentum rolling heading into two home games. The Lakers remained parched though, as they lost to Purdue Northwest, 78-74, and Wisconsin Parkside, 80-79, in overtime.

The UPN Pride seemed to have stolen a page out of the Golden State Warriors’ playbook, as they were able to have more made threes (18) than turnovers (17). The Lakers weren’t as lucky from beyond the arc, as they were only able to convert on 30 percent of their threes (9-30). Ben Lubitz had five of those, and led all Lakers in scoring with 17 points.

Key three pointers from Lubitz and Hunter Hale helped the Lakers to a 70-64 lead with just over five minutes remaining in the contest, but an 11-0 run from the Pride was able to secure the victory from Purdue Northwest, with more than a few costly turnovers keeping GVSU from victory.

“Our defense wasn’t great and our turnovers were really hurting our offense,” said head coach Ric Wesley. “I thought we came out with a lot more energy than them, we made a comeback and felt good about it, but down the stretch, we couldn’t get it done and they were a feisty team.”

The comeback came in the second half, when GVSU overcame a 19-point deficit to tie the game at 58 with 12 minutes to go. The ultimate result was not ideal, but being able to make a comeback shows that when this team is down, they are truly never out.

“It can be a stepping stone moving forward, knowing we can be resilient like that and make comebacks,” Lubitz said. “It’s all about retaining that effort.”

The Lakers took the anger brought from that loss and focused it on the Wisconsin Parkside Rangers, as they were able to create havoc, forcing 20 turnovers on the opposing team in the dog fight at the GVSU Fieldhouse Arena.

In a back-and-forth matchup that featured 16 lead changes, GVSU found themselves trailing again at the half, 35-30. A 14-2 run to open the second half, properly punctuated by a two-handed slam from Jake Van Tubbergen, helped momentum swing in GVSU’s way.

“We were able to get a couple deflections and run-outs to get a little bit of a gap there,” Wesley said. “But they’re a good team and they weren’t going away, so we weren’t able to give them the knock-out punch.”

The nail-biting matchup and clutch play from both teams led to both the Lakers and Rangers ending regulation tied at 65 points. After key shots and important free throws from Jeremiah Ferguson and Van Tubbergen helped the Lakers command a lead, a Ranger miss got loose in the last five seconds and was inadvertently tipped in by the Lakers securing the victory for Wisconsin Parkside.

Despite the unfortunate and fluky finish, Wesley was proud of the focus and intensity his team played with in the overtime period. 

“We got the lead in OT, and it was an intense game the entire way. Every possession was important, every shot was big,” Wesley said. “Strange things happened at the end, we played good defense, but the ball came out funny and we didn’t secure it. If we did, that was maybe the best win we had all year.”

After the two home defeats, the Lakers fall to 12-11 on the year, as well as 6-9 in conference. Heading into two road matchups, with Saginaw Valley State on Valentine’s Day and Northwood two days later, Wesley wants to see less turnovers and more contributions from his role players. 

“We got to cut the turnovers down a little bit,” Wesley said. “Jake (Van Tubbergen) and Jeremiah (Ferguson) played great games today. Isaiah (Brock) played outstanding, but at the same time, for us to beat good teams, it’s got to be more than two or three guys. We need five guys on top of their games.”

Thursday’s game tips off at 8 p.m., while Saturday’s game starts at 6 p.m.