GVSU men's basketball comes up empty during Upper Peninsula weekend series

By Robbie Triano | 2/5/18 1:57am

GVL / Spencer Scarber GVSU Men's Baskeball vs Purdue Northwest on Saturday January 27, 2018.

It was a long, long bus ride home to Allendale for the Grand Valley State men’s basketball team.

The Lakers dropped both of their contests during their Upper Peninsula road trip against Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) contenders Michigan Tech Huskies (12-9, 9-5 GLIAC) on Thursday, Feb. 1, and the Northern Michigan Wildcats (13-8, 10-4 GLIAC) on Saturday, Feb. 3. 

With both losses, GVSU’s record now falls to a balanced 11-11 overall (6-8 GLIAC). In the GLIAC North Division—the league’s most top-heavy division—the Lakers currently sit in fifth place. 

GVSU 75, Michigan Tech 77

Heading up to Houghton, Michigan, the Lakers knew exactly what to expect from Michigan Tech. In mid-December, the Lakers fell to the Huskies 78-68 in their first "Downtown Thursday" game, but they had a chance to watch and scout GLIAC leading scorer Kyle Monroe (25.7 points per game). 

In the weekend prior, Monroe had scored 41 points against Davenport on Thursday, Jan. 25, and 31 versus Northern Michigan on Saturday, Jan. 27, to earn his fourth GLIAC North Division Player of the Week nod of the 2017-18 season.

“He’s just a handful,” said GVSU head coach Ric Wesley after their first meeting on Dec. 7, 2017. “Whether it’s inside, outside or from the free-throw line, he has this presence of mind on offense that’s unlike any other player in our league.”

Monroe finished the contest with 22 points but only completed eight of his 23 field-goal attempts. GVSU forwards Jake Van Tubbergen, Chris Pearl and Zach West were tasked with the job of guarding Monroe throughout the contest.

Despite converting 54 percent of their total shot attempts on offense, the Lakers headed into the halftime break down 43-39. Although they were able to limit Monroe’s game, Michigan Tech shooting guard Bryan Heath replaced his offense by hitting four 3-pointers for 16 first-half points.

Before you could blink, Monroe got it going on offense, leading the Huskies to a 14-5 run to start the second half and place GVSU in a 59-44 deficit with 14 minutes remaining. GVSU guard Hunter Hale kept the Lakers within striking distance after three momentum-shifting 3-pointers, while senior Chris Dorsey and Van Tubbergen did their work inside the paint. 

Down 77-75 with eight seconds remaining, GVSU’s Chris Pearl blocked a 3-point attempt from Monroe leading into a layup attempt, but the shot rimmed out as time expired to give Michigan Tech the victory. 

Hale finished the contest with a double-double, recording 24 points (9-17 FG, 4-9 3PT) and 10 rebounds. Van Tubbergen finished with 14 points, while Dorsey finished with 13. 

GVSU out-rebounded Michigan Tech 43-24 but also allowed 12 3-pointers against the perimeter-dominant Huskies.

GVSU 75, Northern Michigan 85

Staying in the UP, the Lakers traveled another two hours to Marquette, Michigan, to face off against the Northern Michigan Wildcats on Saturday, Feb. 3. Just like Michigan Tech, the Lakers also lost to the Wildcats earlier in the season, this time in a 71-68 overtime shootout.

The Wildcats are equipped with two of the top-five scorers in the GLIAC, including Isaiah Johnson (17.8 points per game) and Naba Echols (17.2). 

The Lakers took the advantage early on, finding themselves up 40-32 heading into halftime. Senior center Drake Baar tallied 10 first-half points (5-7 FG), while Van Tubbergen and Ben Lubitz added 9 each.

But it was a tale of two halves for the Lakers, as once again GVSU came out flat to start the second half. Northern Michigan exploded on offense, outscoring the Lakers 53-35. Three of their 53 second-half points came from a 3-pointer from Echols’ knees, which eventually made No. 9 of ESPN SportsCenter’s “Top Ten Plays” of Saturday.

The Lakers' greatest downfall came from the turnover department, as GVSU coughed up eight of them in the second half to erase all of their offensive momentum. Final score: Northern Michigan 85, GVSU 75.

Ben Lubitz led all Lakers with 16 points (7-9 FG, 2-2 3PT), while Van Tubbergen and Baar each added 14. 

Final thoughts

With only six regular-season games remaining in a three-week span, the Lakers will be forced to play their best basketball in order to secure a spot in the GLIAC Tournament to continue their campaign. GVSU is currently No. 7 in the GLIAC, and only eight teams make the tournament.

The Lakers will next face GLIAC rival Wayne State Warriors (12-9 overall, 9-5 GLIAC) on Thursday, Feb. 8, at the DeltaPlex Arena for their season finale of "Downtown Thursdays." After that, they will face Davenport (10-12 overall, 4-10 GLIAC) at the GVSU Fieldhouse on Saturday, Feb. 10. 

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