Lakers upset seventh ranked Ashland, split road trip
Despite losing their past six road games before Saturday, Feb. 2, the Grand Valley State men’s basketball team was able to dig themselves out of a 14-point halftime deficit to upset the No. 7 ranked Ashland Eagles at Kates gymnasium, 60-53.
Solid defense in that first half helped the Lakers hold the Eagles to 27 points despite only scoring 13 of their own in the first 20 minutes, but Hunter Hale’s 19 points in the second half helped the GVSU offense come alive, as they outscored Ashland 47-26 to close the GLIAC game.
“It’s a great win for us and a tremendous effort by our guys,” said head coach Ric Wesley. “We’ve been struggling a bit on this road trip, so to make that comeback and have the fight that we had really makes you proud of our guys, and it shows we still got good things in store for this team.
Even with Ashland’s Derek Koch hitting a clutch three to tighten GVSU's gap to 56-53 with 33 seconds remaining, the Lakers proceeded to put the nail in the Eagles' coffin, as Hale and Ben Lubitz each nailed a pair of free throws to ice the game. Wesley was proud to see his team finish the contest with some poise and resiliency.
“To win on the road, you always have to make free throws, and our possessions weren’t always fundamentally sound, but we maximized our chances on change of possession,” Wesley said. “Our defense was rock solid from the very start, and we finally started finding our rhythm and got better shots in the second half. I thought it was the best win we’ve had all year.”
What makes the comeback even more impressive for the Lakers in the eyes of Wesley is the fact that they were able to bounce back after losing their last four games, including being defeated at the hands of the Wayne State Warriors one day prior, 86-78.
“They’re playing very well right now, but we did a lot of good things,” Wesley said about the Wayne State loss on Friday, Feb. 1. “It just didn’t quite break the right way at the end of that one, but to come back from that loss with the effort we showed today speaks well of our guys.”
Hale combined for 50 points and five rebounds on the week, including knocking down eight threes en route to a career-high 31 points in Friday’s loss to Wayne State. With as hard as Hale has worked to improve his offensive game this season, Wesley and the rest of the coaching staff expected to see him shine.
“He’s had a great year as an outstanding shooter/scorer, and he’s a real team leader for us,” Wesley said. “He sure has responded well in these past two games, but he’s been grinding all year, so we’re not surprised with what we’ve seen from him. He’s one of the top players in our conference."
After splitting the games this week, the Lakers move to 12-9 on the year with a 6-7 record in the GLIAC. Despite what’s been a bit of an up-and-down season for GVSU, Wesley feels that they will build off this big win and that the Lakers should not go unnoticed by the rest of their conference.
“I’m encouraged that we’re starting to play the game better,” Wesley said. “It’s like chess; you've got to keep doing the right thing each and every possession, and the more right moves we make, the better opportunity we have to win the game. We showed out way more today than we have in our previous games.”
GVSU looks to keep the good momentum from this big win rolling, as they face Purdue Northwest on Thursday, Feb. 7, before playing Wisconsin Parkside on Saturday, Feb. 9. Both games will be played at the GVSU Fieldhouse Arena, with Thursday’s game starting at 8 p.m. and Saturday’s game tipping off at 3 p.m.