Tenacious ‘D’: GVSU men’s basketball uses defensive effort to win home opener

GVL / Dan Pacheco

GVL / Dan Pacheco

Kellen Voss

The Grand Valley State men’s basketball team was able to keep the ball rolling on Friday, Nov. 16 as they came away with a 97-81 victory over the Tiffin Dragons in a back-and-forth game at GVSU’s Fieldhouse Arena.

Sophomore standout Jake Van Tubbergen led all Lakers with 21 points and nine rebounds, with five of those coming on the offensive end. He wasn’t the only Laker to light up the scoreboard, as Zach West poured in 20 points, Jeremiah Ferguson finished with 17 and Hunter Hale contributed 16 to help GVSU to victory.

“I just try to get our team going when I crash the boards,” Van Tubbergen said. “I think it can help, but that’s just the spirit our team plays with.”

Leading the team in minutes played, Ferguson had a lot of time to be a floor general, as he got a chance to lead most of the fast breaks for the Lakers. He made an impact in more ways than one on Friday, as he led the team in assists (seven) and steals (five).

Ferguson tries to be a vocal leader and encourage his teammates, but the former Youngstown State Penguin said that cooperation comes easy since team chemistry has already formed and the players love playing with each other.

“I always try to be heard out there, and I think that helps my team out in the game,” Ferguson said. “We move the ball well, but I think that’s just us liking each other. We like playing with each other, so that makes it a lot easier.”

Head coach Ric Wesley loves to harp on his team for their inconsistent defense, but posting nine blocks and 14 steals helped lead the Lakers to multiple easy buckets in transition, which ultimately led to victory.

Wesley loved the way that his guys controlled the tempo, as he couldn’t stop talking about how much this team likes to run in transition.

“I actually think we played really good defense,” Wesley said. “We were able to push the tempo, and we had a lot of extended runs. Our team really likes to run.”

The one area the Lakers seemed to struggle in was fouls, committed 17 to Tiffin’s 13. To prevent that in future games, Wesley feels the team just needs to improve upon their defensive positioning.

“They were so aggressive, and really attacked the seams of the defense,” Wesley said. “We got a little winded to their credit, we’ve got to be better at just keeping our body in front of the man. When we start reaching, that’s when we foul and we need better positioning at times.”

GVSU crashed the boards well, as they were able to best Tiffin in rebounds 35-33, highlighted by 14 offensive rebounds compared to the Dragons’ 12. With the quality big men on the roster, Wesley feels that this is an area they can excel in all season long.

“There were a lot of crazy shots which resulted in long offensive rebounds, and it’s hard to feel that out as to who’s responsible for that,” Wesley said. “We should be a good rebounding team, with the big guys we have, and our guards are pretty physical, so there’s no reason they can’t stick their nose in and get a rebound as well.”

With the win, the Lakers improve to 3-0 on the young season. Heading into Wednesday’s home game against Grace Christian (7 p.m. tipoff), Wesley hopes the team can continue to execute well, limit turnovers and keep this good momentum rolling. 

“We’ve got to weather the storm when our offense isn’t clicking, but if we continue to put out a great effort on defense, there’s always a chance to win,” Wesley said. “Offensively, the only thing is to not turn the ball over. If we don’t turn it over, we got enough talent to win.”