GVSU men's basketball drops opening contest by last-second 3-pointer to Missouri-St. Louis

By Robbie Triano | 11/13/17 12:07am

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GVL / Robbie Triano Basketball vs University of Missouri - St. Louis on Friday November 10, 2017.

Down by 1 point, Grand Valley State men’s basketball senior Chris Dorsey dribbled around the perimeter, then found an opening inside for a layup to seemingly give the the Lakers the victory with 10 seconds remaining in regulation against the University of Missouri-St. Louis Tritons.

However, the Tritons came right back down the floor and nailed a corner 3-point shot with two seconds remaining to beat the Lakers 64-62 in their regular-season opener Friday, Nov. 10, at Ferris State in Big Rapids, Michigan.

The game was one of the Lakers' two games played in the GLIAC/GLVC Challenge. GVSU won their second game 59-57 against Quincy University on Saturday, Nov. 11. With both games being decided by a combined 4 points, GVSU head coach Ric Wesley has noticed a historical trend with the Lakers' play in the conference challenge.

“It’s been very strange, but every single one of our contests there has been a tightly contested battle,” Wesley said. “I don’t know if it’s each team trying to make a statement to open the season, but they always go until the final buzzer.”

Both GVSU and UMSL started the contest off hot offensively, especially outside the 3-point line. The Tritons hit more 3-point attempts than 2-pointers in the first half, shooting an impressive 58.3 percent outside the perimeter as seven of their 13 total field goals came from 3-pointers. On the other side, the Lakers shot 43.8 percent outside the arc to hit seven 3-pointers, but they found much more success scoring in the paint.

By the end of the first half, the Lakers took a 42-34 lead. What was working for GVSU was their unselfish ball movement that disrupted the USML defense and allowed open looks. Leading the first half scoring was senior center Drake Baar, who scored six field goals for 13 points while also collecting two blocks. Sophomore guard Ben Lubitz led the shooting with three 3-pointers, while sophomore Hunter Hale added 10 points.

Coach Wesley was pleased with Baar’s and the rest of the offense’s work to obtain their early lead.

"(Baar) was moving well early and finding himself in some good spots,” Wesley said. “(Senior guard) Myles Miller gave us some good passes, and it was a matter of us just knocking down our shots."

The start of the second half went in favor of the Lakers, as the offense continued their attack in the paint and Baar and junior center Justin Greason scored early buckets to establish a game-high 13-point lead with 14 minutes remaining in the contest.

However, that lead would only begin to diminish as the Tritons hit four straight field goals to pull the game within 5 points. Not only was UMSL's offense gaining momentum, but their defense forced the Lakers to run their offense in isolation instead of the free-flowing attack Wesley prefers.

“We were forcing shots versus drawing the defense and passing it to the guy that was more open,” Wesley said. “We weren’t as fluent, and we definitely weren’t as unselfish as we were in the first half.”

For the last 10 minutes of competition, both teams went back and forth in gaining the lead. In fact, there were five lead changes to close out the competition. But the Lakers couldn’t pull ahead, as their offense only made two field goals in the last five minutes. 

With two seconds left in the contest, junior guard Zach West heaved a pass from the opposite end of the basket to Ben Lubitz, but his last-second 3-point heave went wide, clinching the 64-62 victory for UMSL. 

Although the statistics swayed in favor of the Lakers, Wesley pointed to the inexperience of their newcomers as one of the many reasons for the tough loss. GVSU led the contest for a combined 33 minutes.

“We had three starters that never started a game for Grand Valley before (Lubitz, Hunter Hale and Chris Pearl),” Wesley said. “They came out pretty ready and had a solid first half, but the challenge is to stay consistent throughout the long games. We built ourselves the lead in the first half, but we didn’t come out the second to maximize our opportunities or even build upon the lead.”

Individual standouts for the Lakers included Barr (19 points, 5 rebounds, 3 blocks); recent transfer Chris Pearl (6 points, 11 rebounds); Hunter Hale (12 points, four assists); and Myles Miller (five assists and two steals).

The Lakers will next face Olivet College in their home opener Tuesday, Nov. 14, at the GVSU Fieldhouse.

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