GVSU men's hoops wins two road matches
Lakers trounce Walsh, Malone in Ohio slate
The Grand Valley State men’s basketball team stayed in the hunt for a GLIAC regular season title, taking care of business against two lowly conference foes late last week.
The Lakers (11-3, 5-3 GLIAC) stonewalled Walsh (5-6, 3-4 GLIAC) 64-50 on Jan. 7 before edging Malone (3-10, 0-8 GLIAC) 89-79 on Saturday evening.
The wins came in varying fashion for the Lakers, who adapted to both low and high-scoring games to secure a pair of conference wins.
“I think we got all the pieces -- we got all the pieces to be fast-paced or all the pieces to be a team where we got to grind it out on defense and get stops,” said senior guard Aaron Hayes. “We’re very versatile.”
GVSU put out one of its best defensive efforts of the season in the opening game of the Ohio series, suffocating Walsh all night. The Cavaliers’ 50 points marks the fewest allowed by GVSU in a GLIAC game this season.
Coming into the tilt, Walsh had averaged just over 79 points per game on the season. The Lakers, however, limited Walsh to 34 percent shooting on 15-of-44 from the field.
“Defense is largely effort and attitude and that’s kind of what we had,” said GVSU head coach Ric Wesley. “We were in the right place mentally, guys were pulling together and we really exerted ourselves out there.
“We dug in and had determination that we haven’t always had and we got out to a good start.”
Senior forward Chaz Rollins led the Lakers in both points and rebounds, posting a decisive double-double with 19 points and 14 boards.
Rollins converted an early layup to get GVSU on the board first, as the Lakers led wire-to-wire in a stingy defensive game from both sides. GVSU clung to a 31-25 lead heading into halftime. Walsh pulled the score to 35-30, but a quick 10-2 run extended GVSU’s lead beyond reach for the Cavaliers, as the Lakers opened the weekend on a joyous note.
Hayes was the only other Laker to record double-digit points, as he scored 10 on 4-of-8 shooting. Walsh flashed strong defense as well, holding GVSU to just 42 percent shooting from the field, including 4-of-20 from 3-point range.
Game two of the trip pitted the Lakers against a Malone team which had not won a GLIAC contest all season. The Pioneers played the Lakers tight early, as both teams shot well in a reverse version of GVSU’s first game of the weekend.
Heading into halftime, the Lakers held a 42-36 lead, thanks to strong efficiency from the floor. While GVSU never ran away with the game, an ability to avoid long scoring droughts and nix any Malone runs helped the Lakers slowly extend their lead throughout the second half, ultimately ending with an 89-79 win.
“I didn’t think we were that much worse defensively (this game), I thought (Malone) was that much better offensively,” Wesley said. “They had some weapons that caused some problems.
“They played well and our offense was pretty sharp today. We had a number of guys step up and knock in some threes for us. (Malone) continued to fight to the very end."
GVSU’s win was highlighted by its team depth, as four Lakers scored in double figures. Hayes paced GVSU with a career-high 21 points, including a 10-of-11 tally from the free throw line.
“I just tried to help my team any way possible,” Hayes said. “A couple lanes opened up and I took them and maximized my opportunities.”
Freshman Zach West added 12 points, as Luke Ryskamp and Ricardo Carbajal dropped 10 each.
West, a 6-foot-5-inch guard, nailed three triples in the contest. The sharpshooter has begun to emerge as GVSU’s best freshman option for scoring. West also chipped in six rebounds on the night.
“Toward the beginning of the year I was a little more nervous trying to figure out where to fit in,” West said. “Now, I know my role and I‘m starting to get really comfortable.”
The Lakers shot 57.4 percent from the field as a team, including a stellar 9-of-16 total from 3-point land. GVSU got to the free throw line 28 times, but converted just 18 of its open opportunities.
Jay Parker and Christian Graves paced Malone with 17 points each, as the Pioneers managed to shot 50 percent from the field. The Lakers outrebounded Malone 31 to 29, led by Rollins and West with six each.
Darren Kapustka added six points and seven assists with just one turnover for the Lakers.
The Lakers improved to 5-0 on the road with the wins in Ohio.
GVSU will return to action on Thursday with a home tilt against Northern Michigan (4-8, 2-6 GLIAC) at 8 p.m.