GVSU men's basketball beats SVSU to claim fifth straight win

By Robbie Triano | 1/8/18 1:08am

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GVL / Matt Read Hunter Hale takes the ball to the hoop against Olivet on Tuesday November 14, 2017.

Heading into the winter break with a frustrating 3-7 overall record (0-4 GLIAC), the Grand Valley State men’s basketball team knew some changes were needed to be made in order to save their season and hopes for postseason success. 

It hasn't been an easy task for head coach Ric Wesley and his staff. After graduating last year's seniors, the Lakers had to quickly adapt new recruits and transfers to immediately replace those core players. 

These early growing pains have allowed this staff to discover how to unlock each players strengths and the inner workings of their team. But with each loss comes a new piece in the puzzle in discovering their identity as a unit. 

Whether it was lineup changes, necessary defensive adjustments and discovering their spots on the floor offensively, the Lakers responded by winning four straight games during the break to bring their record to an even 7-7 overall record (2-4 GLIAC).

However, the Lakers had one more pre-winter semester contest. This time against arch-rival Saginaw Valley State (5-9, 2-4 GLIAC) at the GVSU Fieldhouse Arena on Saturday, Jan. 6.

With their improved defense and newly discovered effort throughout the team, the Lakers defeated a physical SVSU 81-66, bringing their record to 8-7 (3-4 GLIAC) on the season and extending their winning streak to five games. The Cardinals only completed 35 percent of their field-goal attempts against GVSU's interior defense, which accumulated seven total blocks and five steals.

But the game wasn’t as smooth as it appeared for GVSU.  The Lakers allowed the Cardinals to creep back late in the second half with unnecessary fouls and 13 missed free throws. There were 45 total foul calls in the game, with 21 of them coming from GVSU.

To coach Wesley, the post-game praise of his players should have been much more enjoyable for how this team competed in terms of effort.

“There were segments where we definitely played good basketball, but with the amount of foul calls and missed free throws, it was not a pretty game at all,” Wesley said. “We were our own worst enemy with free throws. If we made those, we could’ve had a much better sense of our performance today.”

The Lakers only shot 24 percent from outside the 3-point line, but their 34 points in the paint and solid mid-range shooting improved their total field-goal percentage to 52 percent. 

Freshman forward Jake Van Tubbergen dominated on both ends of the floor, tallying a team-high 18 points (6-9 FG, 1-1 3FG, 5-7 FT) and 11 rebounds in 31 minutes to grab his first career double-double. But to Van Tubbergen, the success he saw on the court wouldn’t have been possible without the other four teammates on the court.

“We were just doing a great job moving the ball and allowing me to find my spots that I could attack,” Van Tubbergen said. “It’s always nice to have teammates that will trust you to hit those open shots.”

After being sidelined during the team’s first four contests with a leg injury, Van Tubbergen has proven himself as a major factor in his team’s recent success. Besides averaging 12.4 points over their recent five-game winning streak, Van Tubbergen brings the Lakers length and height in their smaller lineups, along with a well-balanced offensive attack inside and out the perimeter. 

Senior Chris Dorsey came off the bench to score 12 points (6-9 FG), along with seven rebounds, in just 17 minutes. Dorsey’s performance tied his season high for points, which places him in the right direction after seeing a different role in late November.

“We’ve really moved him around and he’s become a solid utility guy,” Wesley said. “He’s here, he’s there, he’s everywhere. It’s helping him find better opportunities. He has so much talent, and we’re just uncovering some better ways to make him a hard matchup for the other team.”

Major contributions also came from GVSU seniors Myles Miller and Drake Baar. Miller finished the contest with 9 points (3-5 FG, 3-4 FT), four assists and two steals in 24 minutes, while Baar collected 8 points, four rebounds and three blocks in just 13 minutes.

Junior Zach West came off the bench to add 9 points and nine rebounds in 28 minutes, while center Justin Greason added 9 points and seven rebounds in just 13 minutes.

The Lakers will hope to keep their winning streak alive next in their toughest test of the season against GLIAC rival Ashland University (12-3, 5-2 GLIAC) in Ashland, Ohio, on Thursday, Jan. 11.

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