Floor general lifts Laker men past SVSU, WSU
Fifth-year senior guard Rob Woodson is playing like a leader, and the Grand Valley State University men’s basketball team is responding.
GVSU rallied behind Woodson at Thursday’s senior night for a 77-69 victory against Saginaw Valley State University before taking down Wayne State University 82-73 two days later for its first win at the Matthaei Center in more than four years.
The point guard, who did not start a single game in his first four seasons with the team, appears to be carrying the 18-7 Lakers down the stretch.
“There’s a sense of urgency and confidence,” head coach Ric Wesley said. “He’s setting a great example for the guys on the team and is responding in the way you would hope by raising his level, trusting his talent and not holding back. He’s waited his turn. Now he’s here, and he’s enjoying it.”
The stat line showed a performance to remember in the victory at WSU.
Woodson shot 9-of-18 from the field against the Warriors on his way to a game-high, career-high and GVSU-season-high 29 points to go with five steals, four rebounds, three assists and just one turnover.
“It’s all him — he’s determined to not end the season,” sophomore forward Ricky Carbajal said. “We’re all doing what we can to help him end his college career on a good note. He’s been more vocal lately and has been such a good leader.”
The Lakers caught fire in the second half by shooting 72 percent from the field while Woodson poured in 22 of his 29 points. He made 9-of-10 free-throw attempts for the second consecutive game.
In his last six contests, he amassed 32 assists, 18 steals and just five turnovers while averaging 17.5 points per game. He currently owns the second-most steals and the sixth-most assists in the GLIAC this season.
“My time is ticking, so I’m trying to do whatever it takes for my team to get the win,” he said. “I have really concentrated on my energy, and I’m trying to make sure I don’t take any plays off. I’m engaged every single play.”
The play of Carbajal and junior forward Chaz Rollins off the bench was also a big part of both North Division victories, especially in response to SVSU forward Calvin Turnage (25 points on Thursday) and WSU forward Bryan Coleman (20 points on Saturday).
Carbajal recorded 28 points and 10 rebounds in the two games combined, while Rollins racked up 27 points and 14 boards. The duo’s ability to contribute offensively figures to be crucial in the GLIAC Tournament, which starts March 5.
“They have been cleaning the boards up and finishing everything around the rim in these last two games,” Woodson said. “They’re peaking at the best time, right before the conference playoffs, and if those two are playing good and I’m playing good — it’s going to be hard to beat us.”
Junior guard Ryan Sabin also scored in double figures in both contests while shooting 5-of-11 from beyond the arc.
GVSU improved to 14-7 in conference play with the pair of wins and retained its fifth-place spot in the overall standings. If it continues to rally around its fifth-year senior, it could make for a tough out in the GLIAC Tournament.
“This may be our best basketball here late in the season,” Wesley said. “Hopefully we can catch some fire going into the tournament and go in as the hot team. We’ve shown that we can play with anyone in the conference, so my hope is that we will continue to get better.”
The team will tip off in its final regular season game at Ferris State University on Thursday at 8 p.m.