GV Men’s Basketball splits exhibition games against MSU and Alma


Courtesy / Lenny Padilla

Holly Bihlman, Sports Editor

For an exciting start to this year’s preseason basketball games, the Grand Valley State University men’s basketball team traveled to Michigan State University on Thursday, Nov. 4 and hosted Alma College on Saturday, Nov. 6. The team was able to compete against the Division I Spartans and the Division III Scots before their season’s official start on Sunday, Nov. 14 against the University of Indianapolis. 

On Thursday, the Lakers took to the courts at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, winning the initial tip off to start the game. MSU put the first nine points up on the board five minutes into the game, with the first Laker basket made by Western Michigan University transfer senior Luke Toliver with a three-pointer. The Lakers struggled to keep up with the Spartans offensively, allowing a 15-point deficit ten minutes into the game before freshman Ethan Alderink made his first three-pointer of the night. 

Senior Issac Gassman followed suit with two three-pointers in a row to bump the Lakers up to 16-29 with just under five minutes left in the half. Alderink responded with a dunk to wrap up the scoring for the Lakers, ending the first half at 20-18.  

“They did a good job of kicking us out and keeping us extended on the wings,” said senior Jake VanTubbergen. “It was pretty difficult to get anything to penetrate towards the basket, so you’ve got to give them a little bit of credit for that.” 

Toliver started the second half off for the team with a jumper and a three-pointer just two minutes into play, and his confidence rubbed off on Harris who sunk two free throws off a Malik Hall foul. Toliver’s third and fourth three-pointers of the night sandwiched a layup, bringing the score to 32-57 six minutes into the half as the lead-scorer of the night with 16 total points.

“He (coach Ric Wesley) expected us to win,” Toliver said. “He had a lot of confidence in us, so he gave us confidence, we came out, had a good warmup and made a good run.” 

Senior Jordan Harris found two layups, followed by Gassman’s three-pointer, leaving the score at 45-65 with 8:10 left in the game. Senior Christian Negron started to find the basket with three two-point shots by the end of the game alongside Harris who sunk four good free throws in the last four minutes of the game, boosted by VanTubbergen’s three-pointer at three minutes left. 

“We were able to get inside the defense and get some kick outs, and we made a couple shots, we made a couple threes, and it’s amazing how the game turns,” Wesley said. “I thought, for the most part, our guys did a pretty good job, we just could never quite get it to that 14-25 point range, make it interesting. But you know, it’s a win-win for us. We come out of here knowing more about our team and move forward and we’ll get better because of it.” 

Saturday, the Lakers welcomed fans back into the Fieldhouse Arena for the first time in two years to start the game off with a quick Harris layup for the first two points on the board, and another just over one minute into the game. Gassman sunk a three-pointer to up the score 7-5 in favor of the Lakers, with Alderink’s right behind his to double the Laker’s lead, 7-14. Toliver was able to make a three-pointer and two good free throws five minutes in, followed by Alderink’s layup and free throws. 

“Ethan is one of our most improved players,” Wesley said. “He’s worked really hard in the offseason, he’s put on a lot of strength, and I think his overall confidence is just much greater than it was last year. He’s a tremendous defender and he’s really found his niche offensively, shooting in terms of the open three, but also attacking the basket.” 

Gassman, Alderink, VanTubbergen and Negron all took turns putting points up on the board before Negron’s second dunk with six minutes left in the first to make the score 37-24. Sophomore Marius Grazulius and Lewis contributed another few layups heading into the tail end of the first before Negron wrapped up scoring with a layup for his eighth point of the game. GVSU lost the ball resulting in Alma’s throw all the way down the court for Brandon Rake to put in for the last two points, rounding out the score to 48-29. 

“He’s (Negron) worked really hard, he’s running the floor well, he’s a tremendous defender, so I’m never surprised when he does well,” Wesley said. 

Negron continued his run, putting in two layups and a dunk for the first six points of the second half, bringing the score to 29-54. Toliver landed another three-pointer followed by Alderink’s dunk that riled up the Laker crowd. 

Freshmen Trevon Gunter and Trevor Smith both saw some playing time in the second half of the game, with Gunter’s total points just one behind Negron’s 14. Gunter threw a three-pointer with just two and a half minutes left in the game, followed by another four points by Alderink to end the game 80-56. 

“It’s been a long week,” Wesley said. “Three competitions in a week is a lot. I just hope that we could build on what we did Thursday and just be a little bit better. We had stretches that we played pretty good, and then we had stretches I didn’t think we played as well as we were capable of. I just thought we lost our focus a little bit. We got a little bit of a lead and we just weren’t as aggressive as we needed to be, and I give them (Alma) a lot of credit.” 

While the Lakers head into this week in preparation for their first away-game of the regular season at the University of Indianapolis, the team was happy to be able to play their opponents last week with crowds back in action. 

“I was pretty surprised and pleased at how many people turned out,” Negron said. “We definitely heard them tonight when we made some big plays. I’m just happy that Laker nation is back out there.” 

The team is still going to be working hard this week to reach the level of play that they believe they need to be at for this Sunday, reviewing film from the two exhibition games and taking into account their mishaps this week. 

“We don’t feel like we’ve played a complete game yet,” Negron said. “So everything: trusting each other on offense, staying connected on defense, rebounding; honestly, we feel like we have to get better in those areas but I think everybody in the locker room would agree that we haven’t really played to our standard yet.” 

The team looks ahead to their first game of the regular season on Nov. 14 as well as their first home game on Saturday, Nov. 20 against Cedarville.