GVSU men's hoops splits another weekend series
Lakers handle Lake Superior State at home, drop contest to Northwood
Despite a key win over Lake Superior State on Feb. 11, the Grand Valley State men’s basketball team left the weekend even more unsure of its GLIAC tournament hopes.
GVSU (16-9, 10-9 GLIAC) topped LSSU 84-70 at home, but got edged by Northwood in an away tilt 79-73 on Feb. 13. The loss to the Timberwolves put GVSU among a three-way tie in the GLIAC for two postseason spots.
"We got just three games left and we're right in the hunt there," said GVSU head coach Ric Wesley. "Our job is to come out every night and give the best shot we got."
GVSU hosted LSSU (17-8, 12-7 GLIAC) in the first game of the weekend, and, as has been the focus for GVSU recently, got off to a strong start. GVSU hit its first four shots of the game to jump out to a 10-3 lead.
GVSU fought to extend its lead throughout the contest, but LSSU guard Akaemji Williams had other ideas. Williams, a diminutive point guard, notched a game-high 28 points, and kept LSSU within a small margin throughout the game.
With the clock winding down in the first half, Williams hit an off-balance bank shot to pull LSSU to within one point at 35-34 heading into the break.
The second half was owned by Luke Ryskamp. Ryskamp scored just five points in the first half, but poured in 19 in the second half, including a pair of clutch and-1 layups, to lead his Lakers to a tight victory.
"It just kind of comes possession by possession and then you get a couple rebounds defensively and you just kind of get into that flow of the game," Ryskamp said. "You’re not going too fast but you’re not going too slow. You get into that speed and when you find it, anything can happen."
GVSU pulled away late thanks to converted free throws, and held a 30-9 advantage in makes at the charity stripe over LSSU on the night.
Senior center Chaz Rollins had a monster night, scoring 20 points and taking advantage when LSSU center Michael Nicholson fouled out. Rollins also pulled in eight rebounds.
Point guard Aaron Hayes added 17 points and Trevin Alexander scored 11 for GVSU.
In an effort to win back-to-back games for the first time in nearly a month, GVSU hit the road for a tilt against Northwood (14-11, 10-9 GLIAC), but another sluggish start doomed the Lakers, and a fervid second-half comeback wasn't enough to secure the win.
A combination of poor first-half shooting and an inability to slow down the Northwood attack put the Lakers' backs against the baseline late in the first half. GVSU shot just 7-of-23 in the first half, while the Timberwolves converted 15-of-32 attempts. Northwood led 40-24 at the end of the first half.
"I just didn't think we had a lot of energy in the first half, energy to concentrate," Wesley said. "Our fight ,our demeanor wasn't what it needed to be. We looked a little tired in the first half."
The Lakers nearly made up the deficit in the second half. GVSU drilled three 3-pointers nearly immediately to trim Northwood's lead to 40-33, and, later, a seven-point run pulled GVSU to within three points at 58-55.
But the Lakers never could pull in front. They hung around until a late turnover gave Northwood the free throws needed to clinch the victory.
"We're just playing good teams," Wesley said. "These teams are good teams. Every game we get into, the teams are on par with us. I don't think we're way better and I don't think they're way better, it's just a dogfight every game and today we just didn't have enough for 40 minutes."
GVSU, Northwood and Hillsdale are all tied at 10-9 in conference play, and it's likely that two of the teams will make the GLIAC tournament. GVSU faces a grueling three-game schedule to end the season, with games against Saginaw Valley State, Hillsdale and Ferris State left on the slate.
The Lakers will host SVSU at home on Feb. 18 at 8 p.m.