GVSU men’s basketball snaps three game losing streak with wins over Northwood, Lake Superior State

Myles Miller (12) jukes his way up the court during the game vs. Northwood inside the Fieldhouse Arena in Allendale on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017.

Kevin Sielaff

Myles Miller (12) jukes his way up the court during the game vs. Northwood inside the Fieldhouse Arena in Allendale on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017.

Beau Troutman

Last week, Grand Valley State men’s basketball coach Ric Wesley called his team’s effort “pathetic” after they dropped three games in a row.

Luckily for him, his team responded in a big way.

The Lakers (15-10, 11-7 GLIAC) finally snapped out of a funk that saw them lose four out of their last five games. GVSU started this past weekend off with a 94-83 win over the Northwood Timberwolves Thursday, Feb. 9, and then closed it out with an exhilarating 71-69 victory over Lake Superior State Saturday, Feb. 11. 

The Lakers are now in a three-way tie for fourth place in the conference.

In the second game against LSSU, the Lakers were without senior leader Trevin Alexander, who had discomfort in his knee after Thursday’s game. That left seniors Luke Ryskamp and Juwan Starks to pick up the slack. They did just that—and more.

At around the 10 minute mark of the second half, Starks’ No. 22 jersey ripped, forcing him to get a backup jersey. Starks, apparently not a believer in bad luck, went with the No. 13.

Akin to LeBron James losing his headband and then going off in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals, Starks’ performance after donning the No. 13 was one of the best of the season. With under five minutes to go in the game and trailing 63-62, Starks saved a ball that seemed destined for out of bounds. Seconds later, Ryskamp nailed a 3-pointer to make it 65-63 Lakers.

“We all played together, especially me and Luke—we just took the challenge,” Starks said. “We’re seniors, we only have a couple more games left, so we just tried to will are way to the ‘W.’”

Following Ryskamp’s bucket and an LSSU miss, Starks backed a defender down close to the basket. With the shot clock winding down, Starks hit a fade away jumper to make it 67-63.

LSSU tied the game at 67 two minutes later, and then star point guard Akaemji Williams (21.5 points per game) gave his team the lead with a pair of free throws with just 1:16 on the clock.

On the next Lakers’ possession, junior guard Myles Miller found Starks open in the right corner. Starks hoisted a shot, the ball danced around on the rim, but eventually went it, giving GVSU the lead back 70-69 with 57 seconds on the clock.

“Just one or two plays, that’s what these games come down to,” Wesley said. “We’re really fortunate to have gotten the win. Tremendous shot there by (Juwan) to get us the lead.”

On the ensuing possession, LSSU’s Jordan Dasuqi tried a corner three of his own, but GVSU forward Zach West came out of nowhere and just got a piece of the ball, which didn’t even hit the basket and fell safely into the hands of Starks.

There was still enough time on the clock that would ensure one more LSSU possession, but the Lakers tried to take off as much time as possible. With under five seconds on the shot clock, Starks and the No. 13 jersey struck again—the senior was able to draw a three-point shooting foul on LSSU’s Williams with 8.4 seconds in the game.

For the first time, though, the No. 13 jersey did Starks a disservice—he missed the first two free throws, keeping the score at 70-69. LSSU called a timeout before the third free throw in an attempt to ice Starks.

“I knew Juwan was going to make the third one,” Ryskamp said. “I wasn’t worried. He was going to make the third one.”

Ryskamp was right, as Starks sank the third and made it a two point game. On the final possession, Williams brought the ball up the floor. Up to that point, LSSU had shot a whopping 34 3-pointers—but only made seven of them. Williams wasted no time, and pulled up for three at the top of the arc. The shot was awkward and bounced off the rim. Starks saved the ball from going out of bounds and held onto it for the last couple seconds so LSSU wouldn’t get another shot.

“It was a back-and-forth game,” Ryskamp said. “Some of the calls went our way, some didn’t. We made our shots when we needed to, and we got stops when we needed to and got big rebounds. That’s huge for our team moving forward.”

Ryskamp led all scorers with 23 points. Starks had 17 points with 7 rebounds and four steals. Justin Greason had 12 points. GVSU held LSSU to just 2-of-19 from behind the arc in the second half and 7-of-35 for the game.

In the first game against the Timberwolves, the game was further apart than the final score indicated. The 94 points by GVSU was a season-high, and Starks had a career-high 28 points, including a blazing hot 6-of-7 mark from behind the arc. Ryskamp had 24 points and Miller added 12. Alexander had 7 points with 12 rebounds.

In total, Starks and Ryskamp combined for 92 points in both games. Ryskamp moved into 19th on the all-time GVSU scoring list (1,273), passing former Laker Chris Raven, who played from 1975-79.

With the final two home games of the regular season—and then one final road game at Ferris State—coming up this Thursday, Feb. 17 against Michigan Tech and then Saturday, Feb. 19 against Northern Michigan, Ryskamp says it’s up to him and Starks to lead the team, especially with Alexander’s status being uncertain.

“Win every game,” he said. “Whatever that requires us to do. Trevin, got to hope he can come back, but if he can’t his role will just to be vocal off the bench. Juwan and I will do whatever we can.”