Jay Bushen

Headline: SPLIT U.P.

Subhead: Stelzer, Huskies power past GV in Upper Peninsula

By Jay Bushen

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With the way he’s playing this season, there is no stopping Michigan Tech senior guard Ben Stelzer. Opposing defenses can only hope to contain him.

The Grand Valley State men’s basketball team limited Stelzer, the GLIAC Preseason Player of the Year, to eight first-half points at the SDC Gym on Saturday afternoon, but it was only a matter of time before the league’s leading scorer took over.

Stelzer, who torched GVSU with 34 points on 8-of-10 shooting from 3-point range in last year’s GLIAC Tournament, poured in 15 points in the second half Saturday as the Huskies rallied past the Lakers for a 77-65 win. He had game highs with 23 points, six assists and six rebounds despite turning the ball over a game-high six times. He went 12-of-13 at the free throw line.

“He hit a couple big shots, a couple tough shots but for the most part we chased him around and limited his opportunities,” said GVSU coach Ric Wesley, whose Lakers fell to 9-7 (5-5 GLIAC).

“It was a competitive and inspired effort to start. We were in a good situation against one of the better teams in the conference. The guys came out and played with a lot of determination and got us a three-point lead at the half, but they got some fouls on us — and they just don’t miss free throws. Certainly not upset with the effort, we had a valiant effort in today’s game.”

The stat line showed a tremendous free-throw shooting performance from the Huskies (10-4, 7-3 GLIAC). The team knocked down 30-of-33 attempts (90.9 percent) from the charity stripe.

Michigan Tech junior Kyle Stankowski went 6-of-6 from the stripe, finishing with 18 points and four rebounds while classmate Jordan Chartier added 16 points, four boards and two assists.

The banged-up Lakers led by as many as eight points in the first half, but were unable to seal the deal. GVSU was outrebounded 28-21 and committed 11 fouls in the second stanza.

“Their physical play kind of caught up to us in the final minutes of the game,” said GVSU senior center Darren Washington, who tallied six points and pulled down a team-high five rebounds. “They were blowing past us, and we had a hard time staying in front of them.”

GVSU sophomore guard Luke Ryskamp had five boards as well, adding a team-high 15 points on 5-of-15 shooting. Senior guard Ryan Sabin, who kept Stelzer in check early on, notched his 14th double-digit scoring performance in 16 games this season with 13 points (5-of-7 shooting).

The Lakers owned a 28-7 edge in bench points. Junior guard Darren Kapustka led the way with 12 points while junior forward Ricky Carbajal and freshman guard Miles Miller each had eight.

“We’re getting the shots that we want and getting shots for the people that we want,” Miller said. “We just have to knock down some more of the opportunities we’re getting. We’re getting to the free throw line more, but we need to get out on transition. I think that’s when we’re at our best.”

The Lakers, who have lost five straight games to Michigan Tech since 2013, may not have held on for the win — but they didn’t depart from the Upper Peninsula empty handed.

Sabin played all 40 minutes and finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds and five assists Thursday night as GVSU stymied Northern Michigan, 62-53, at the Berry Events Center in Marquette, Mich.

GVSU was impressive from beyond the arc, shooting 7-of-10. Sabin knocked down a trio of trifectas. Ryskamp hit two, finishing with 12 points. Carbajal came off the bench to add 14.

The team played just as well defensively. NMU had just 53 points on 17-of-48 shooting (35.4 percent). It was the sixth time GVSU held an opponent to fewer than 60 points this season (5-0).

”I thought the difference between these two games was definitely our defense,” Miller said. “The first game we did a good job of forcing them very late in the shot clock, giving them one-shot opportunities and getting into transition. Against Michigan Tech, we did that in the first half but in the second half I don’t feel like we had control of the game.”

The Lakers return to Allendale for a Thursday night matchup with Lake Superior State (13-3, 8-2) before heading to Hillsdale on Saturday to take on Kyle Cooper and the Chargers (8-6, 6-4).

“We’ve got to get out there and get our share of wins,” Wesley said. “We’re not in the driver seat by any stretch of the imagination but you can’t spend too much time worrying about the entirety of things. We’ve just got to take it one game at a time, which should be easy to do this week.”