Free-falling Lakers lose fourth, fifth in a row

GVL/Kevin Sielaff
#23 Luke Ryskamp

GVL / Kevin Sielaff

GVL/Kevin Sielaff #23 Luke Ryskamp

Jay Bushen

For the first time in more than 11 years, the Grand Valley State men’s basketball team has lost five straight games.

Two days after a 73-68 home loss to an upstart Saginaw Valley State team on Thursday night, GVSU struggled to patrol the perimeter in a 73-65 defeat at Hillsdale. The Chargers shot 14-of-33 from downtown Saturday before knocking the Lakers down to a last-place tie in the North Division standings.

“They shot the lights out today,” said GVSU junior guard Darren Kapustka. “That was tough. We knew coming in they were a good passing team and a good 3-point-shooting team, but they were unconscious in the first half. We just didn’t get the job done defensively today.”

GVSU’s descent from GLIAC contention continues. The Lakers (9-11, 5-9 GLIAC) have lost six of their last seven games, and are left with just eight games to climb out of the North Division cellar.

Two of those games are against the GLIAC’s top team, No. 22 Ferris State. The nicked-up Lakers host the Bulldogs in what could be a crucial game at Fieldhouse Arena on Monday at 8 p.m.

A particular pattern seems to sum up the five-game slide — defensive breakdowns. GVSU is 1-9 this season when giving up more than 70 points. The team has yielded 77, 78, 78, 73 and 73 points in its last five games.

“We’re beating ourselves by letting them do what they want on offense,” said junior forward Ricky Carbajal after Thursday’s loss to SVSU. “Mentally, we’re making too many mistakes on both offense and defense.

“It’s on everybody.”

On Saturday, GVSU led by as many as seven points in the first half but the Chargers battled back to make it 25-25 at the break. The Lakers bottled up 6-foot-7 junior guard Kyle Cooper, the GLIAC’s top scorer and rebounder, to six points in the opening frame — but it didn’t last long.

Cooper knocked down a trio of triples in the second half, tallying a double-double with 19 points and 13 boards before the final buzzer. He shot 5-of-11 from beyond the arc, and the Chargers survived a late Laker rally for their eighth GLIAC win of the season.

GVSU’s top three scorers; Carbajal, sophomore guard Luke Ryskamp and senior guard Ryan Sabin; finished with 19, 17 and 13 points, respectively.

“We battled hard, but we had a lot of defensive breakdowns that ended up costing us at the end,” said Kapustka, who had team highs with three assists and three 3-pointers (nine points).

The team put together a similar performance against the Cardinals of SVSU on Thursday night. The Lakers led by as many as 10 in the first half, but weren’t able to make key stops when it mattered late.

For GVSU coach Ric Wesley, turnovers and a lack of offensive cohesiveness are an area of concern.

“Too many turnovers,” Wesley said. “We had 20 turnovers; that’s somewhere between 40 and 60 points that you’re giving up. A lot of these are just sort of unforced, whack turnovers and a lot of them were by our veteran guys.

“So that was really disappointing and it’s been a trend here lately — we’re giving the ball up too much.”

Australian native Caleb Davis seemed to have an answer for every GVSU comeback attempt in the second half. He was one of three Cardinals to reach double figures, pouring in a game-high 19 points.

Ryskamp had 19 points, as well. Carbajal added 13, while Kapustka and Sabin chipped in with nine apiece.

GVSU welcomes FSU on Monday and Northern Michigan on Thursday. Both games are scheduled to tip off at 8 p.m. The Lakers play their third GLIAC North foe in the six-day span on Saturday, when Ben Stelzer and the Huskies of Michigan Tech come to Fieldhouse Arena for a 3 p.m. showdown.