Men’s basketball splits two road games, tallies first win of the season


Courtesy / GVSU Athletics

Ermias Stewart, Staff Writer

Grand Valley State University’s men’s basketball traveled out of state last weekend as they lost to Southwest Baptist 82–85 and secured their first win of the season against Trevecca Nazarene, 82–55.

The Bearcats matchup seemed as though GVSU would start their regular season with a win on the road as they came out firing on all cylinders, converting at the charity stripe and finding good looks inside and out of the paint.

Although Southwest Baptist was able to keep the deficit to below 10 points for the first 14 minutes of the half, the Lakers boosted themselves after two successful free throws by senior guard Luke Toliver (33-23).

From that point, the Lakers created a 16-10 scoring run with just 50 seconds remaining in the first half, but the Bearcats were able to cut the 16-point deficit to just nine after scoring seven-unanswered points in a 38-second span.

The second half saw both sides adding to their scoring totals as the Bearcats were prevented from coming within four points all the way through the first 17 minutes (79-75, 2:44 remaining). 

However, no lead is safe in college basketball, and a huge three-point conversion by the Bearcats coming out of a late timeout swung the momentum into their favor, as a costly turnover by GVSU led to the opponent getting a fast-break layup and taking the lead for the first time in the game and forcing a Laker timeout.

The regroup proved to be ineffective as the Bearcats would force another turnover and another fast-break opportunity was successfully converted to push their lead to 79-82.

On top of the back-to-back turnovers, GVSU’s three-minute, 21-second scoring drought could not have come at a worse time. 

It was finally broken when a foul on the Bearcats sent the Lakers to the line in a bonus situation, but graduate student guard Daniel Kiely was only able to convert the first free throw and cut the deficit to 80-84 (two previous free throws by Bearcats).

Another foul on Southwest Baptist sent redshirt freshman guard Trevor Smith to the line, this time knocking down both attempts and bringing the scoreboard to 82-84 with nine seconds left in the game.

GVSU deliberately fouled the Bearcats and it seemed as if it would fall in favor of the Lakers as the first shot attempt was missed. However, GVSU failed to secure the defensive rebound and was forced to foul Southwest Baptist once again and scored the first free throw to make it a three-point game, 82-85.

Two seconds remained in the game, and the Lakers were forced to shoot a game-tying three that was missed by Smith and finished the game in disappointment for GVSU.

A hot scoring start for the Lakers in the first half (58.3% overall, 82.6% FT) dwindled to 39.3% overall while the Bearcats improved from 48.3% FG to 56.7% overall.

“We fought a tough game, and we had a couple lapses which led to us losing,” Smith said. “I hate that we got a loss but there’s a lesson in every loss.”

Toliver led the Lakers with 20 points on 5-7 shooting, while Kiely was the second-leading scorer with 13 points (6-7 FG). Both graduate student forward Chinedu Kingsley Okanu and junior forward Marius Grazulis added 12 points apiece in the loss.

“My teammates and coaches put me in the right positions to score and the ball found me,” Toliver said. “Tough loss, but an exciting game to play in.”

Rebounding from their loss the night previous, the Lakers faced Trevecca Nazarene University on Nov. 12 in yet another close battle for the majority of the first half.

The game saw four lead changes after a good three-pointer by Toliver put the Lakers on top (13-11) and the slow pace of the first five and a half minutes began to ramp up (14:28 remaining).

GVSU was able to expand on their lead and push it to 14 points (37-23) as 5:36 showed on the scoreboard. However, another scoring drought by the Lakers for the remainder of the half allowed the Trojans to go on a 12-point scoring run and cut the lead to 37-35 going into the break.

“It was a roller coaster game in the first half for us,” said freshman guard Jalen Charity. “(A lot of) ups and downs, but in the second half we really locked in on our defense and rebounding, and offense just came along with it.”

The Lakers did exactly that as Charity intercepted the ball from the Trojans and found Smith for a good look at a three-pointer to open up the half with a momentum boost.

GVSU wouldn’t look back for the remainder of the half as they prevented Trevecca Nazarene to come within nine points (48-39, 15:29 remaining). 

The remainder of the half was all about the Lakers’ efforts on both ends of the court, with the largest lead expanding to 29 points after a three from redshirt senior Isaiah Carver-Bagley with 67 seconds remaining (82-53), but one last bucket by the Trojans would bring the final score to 82-55.

With the win, this marks head coach Cornell Mann’s first victory of his career with the team.

“It was a very important win since it was Coach Mann’s first win, and a bunch of the guys’ first collegiate win,” Smith said.

Sophomore guard Trevon Gunter led the team with 20 points (7-10 FG, 6-9 3PT) with Grazulis (18 points, five rebounds), Smith (15 points, three steals) and Toliver (12 points, three assists) contributed to the victory.

“We were back against the wall and needed to win,” Toliver said. “Our mentality, (which) was emphasized by the coaches, was energy, effort and focus. Our plan is to play hard and keep players fresh, coming in and out of the game. Most importantly, we wanted to be in control of the tempo.”

GVSU improved their shooting numbers from the previous game as they finished 48.2% from the field, 46.7% from behind the arc (14-30 3PT) and cashed in their freebies with a 14-17 finish at the free throw line.

This upcoming week will consist of the Lakers’ final game of a three-game road trip against Findlay College (Nov. 16) as they look forward to playing in front of their home crowd against the University of Indianapolis.

Now 1-1 on the season, GVSU’s home opener against UIndy on Sunday, Nov. 20 will tip off at 2 p.m.