Men’s basketball defeats Ferris in huge Senior Night victory


GVL / Annabelle Robinson

Brian Bloom, Staff Writer

The Grand Valley State University men’s basketball team split its final two games of the regular season as they lost to Lake Superior State 57-65 and beat Ferris State University 90-84 in back-to-back home games.

Feb. 23 consisted of GVSU struggling against Lake Superior, falling behind by 22 points at the end of the first half, 22-42. 

Despite this, GVSU clawed back into the game to close the gap to five points with just a minute and a half left in the game (57-62) before eventually losing.

As a team, the Lakers shot 37% overall with graduate student forward Kingsley Okanu leading the squad with 15 points and four rebounds followed by sophomore guard Britain Harris adding 12 points and three steals.

The Lakers’ final regular season game pitted them against longtime rival and No. 1 GLIAC-ranked Ferris State, who dealt the Lakers a 29-point loss in their first meeting of the season (68-97 Dec. 1).

“(In the first game) we didn’t have everybody; Kingsley was just coming back from injury and didn’t play, and we just didn’t have our numbers,” said Head Coach Cornell Mann. “We want to influence the pace and we didn’t because we didn’t have our usual guys. I won’t ever do that again.”

The emotions ran high before the start of the game as senior guard Luke Toliver, redshirt senior forward Isaiah Carver-Bagley, graduate student guard Daniel Kiley and Okanu were honored for the annual Senior Night ceremony, making the victory that much sweeter.

“(It) was a little extra special,” Okanu said. “We all love each other and we knew that we wouldn’t get this experience again so we played extra hard. This happening on senior night just made it so much more special.”

Carver-Bagley began the game with an “and-one” conversion with the team never looking back as junior forward Marius Grazulis hit a mid-range jumper to give GVSU a 15-0 lead just four minutes into the game.

“We were on point on offense because we were on point on defense, that’s what we always focus on,” Okanu said. “It’s never about offense; even in the locker room we always talk about defense first because that’s what sets up our offense.”

After the Bulldogs cut the lead to 11 points (22-11), Although GVSU rebuilt the lead to 16, the Bulldogs were able to cut the Lakers’ once double-digit lead to just six points after a 0-10 scoring run (33-27).

GVSU would respond as Harris scored three quick points followed by a Grazulis jump shot, leading to a three-pointer by Harris to make the score 41-31. Harris wasn’t done there, as he added seven more points to his total to finish the first half with 19 points.

“There was a lot of energy and momentum coming in, and once I realized that I had that confidence and energy, I just trusted myself and my teammates trusted me,” Harris said.

With a 54-37 GVSU lead to start the second half, Ferris State emerged from the break and cut a 17-point deficit to just six points with 15 minutes left to play, 58-52.

Just when it felt as though the momentum shifted, the Lakers once again responded with a run of their own with Okanu scoring six-straight points in the paint capped off by highlight rejection and fast break slam to get the team and fans back into the game.

“When I make a play, that play isn’t over,” Okanu said. “The coaching staff really taught me that I have to have a high motor, I can’t rest. Even though I got the block, there was still work to do on the other end.”

The scoring run continued for the Lakers as they built the lead into double figures once again (17 points) with 9:22 remaining.

The second half continued to be highlighted by scoring runs from both sides with Ferris State clawing their way back to a ten-point deficit but coming up short of a comeback as Okanu put the finishing touches on the victory by throwing down yet another highlight dunk.

A much-improved shooting performance from GVSU saw 52% overall from the field with both Harris (career-high scoring) and Carver-Bagley leading the team with 21 points each.

“I told (Britain) to be aggressive because he’s good; he’s good off of ball screens, and he can make plays for himself and for others,” Mann said. “He can really affect the game and today was his best outing.” 

The team also outrebounded the Bulldogs 41-39 in the scrappy victory.

“We did a solid job on the glass against a team that normally wins the glass,” Mann said. “I’ll never be satisfied (with our performance) on the glass, but I am proud of the way that our guys rebounded.”

Okanu and Grazulis were huge pillars in the paint in all facets as Okanu finished with 18 points and seven rebounds and Grazilus tallied a double-double with 10 points and 15 rebounds (tied career-high).

With the team positioned at No. 5 seed in the 202-23 GLIAC Tournament and likely (although currently unofficially announced) facing Lake Superior in the first round on the road, Harris will hope the team will find themselves on and off the court to piece together a cohesive performance.

“(The expectations are) a lot more togetherness,” Harris said. “We’ve figured out what everybody does well now, we’re more of a team. Everybody is bringing the energy, effort and focus, so hopefully a lot of wins.”

GVSU will begin their conference tournament run on March 1.