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(Press Conference: Coach Bill Sall & Justin Keenan)
Big Rapids, Mich. - The Ferris State University men's basketball squad picked up another win at home and setup a first-place divisional battle next week with a 70-63 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) win over Northern Michigan on Saturday (Jan. 22) afternoon at FSU's Jim Wink Arena.
The Bulldogs stayed unbeaten inside the facility this season as they won their ninth home game of the campaign. Additionally, they stayed within one game of GLIAC North Division leader Grand Valley State with the two teams set to square off next Saturday (Jan. 29) in the "131 Showdown" at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids.
Ferris State took a 38-32 halftime advantage against the Wildcats despite shooting only 37.5% (12-32) in the opening frame. FSU pushed its lead to 16 points midway thru the final half, but the Wildcats pulled back within five points with 1:09 remaining. A pair of free throws combined with a NMU turnover sealed the decision for the Bulldogs.
NMU limited FSU to only 36.2% (21-58) shooting for the game and forced 13 Bulldog turnovers. However, the Wildcats had 19 miscues of their own and totaled 27 fouls, which led to a 23-of-36 (63.9%) shooting performance from the free throw stripe for the Bulldogs.
"We certainly did not play our best today, but it was nice to pull out a win when you don't shoot the ball that well," said FSU head coach Bill Sall. "Everybody in that locker room realizes that we have to focus in on getting better with the schedule that is ahead of us."
Senior forward/center Justin Keenan (Grand Rapids/Ottawa Hills) did most of the damage on the day for the Bulldogs as he scored a game-high 31 points and pulled down 10 rebounds in notching his third consecutive double-double contest and his fourth such showing in his last five outings. He also moved into second place on the school's career scoring list by surpassing Jesse Mangham (1966-72) during the game. The 6-7 standout converted eight-of-13 field goal tries and hit 15-of-22 free throws.
"It means a lot to move up and feels good, but we still have a lot of team goals left to accomplish this year," said Keenan.
Keenan wasn't the only Bulldog player who made their mark in the record books as fellow senior forward Lou Williams (Muskegon Heights) posted five blocked shots to tie Adam Anderson's (1998-03) school record total of 142 career swats. Williams also made four-of-five field goals to finish with 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds before fouling out of the contest.
Junior guard Dontae Molden (Detroit/Pershing) was the third FSU player to reach double-figure scoring with 10 points to go with three assists and three steals.
The Bulldogs held Northern Michigan to 42.3% (22-52) shooting overall and the Wildcats were only three-of-12 (25%) from three-point range in comparison with FSU's five-of-24 (20.8%) figure. Northern Michigan made 16-of-20 (80%) attempts from the charity stripe.
Ferris was outrebounded narrowly in the contest by a 39-38 count, but outscored NMU 19-9 in second chance production on the heels of 17 offensive boards. Keenan had five caroms at the offensive end with Williams garnering four.
FSU dished out 13 assists and came up with nine steals and seven blocked shots in comparison to NMU's 10 assists, six blocks and four rejections. Senior guard Darien Gay (Detroit/Henry Ford) had a contest-best five assists for the Bulldogs.
"Overall, our defense has been pretty good, but we have to be physical and efficient on the offensive end," Sall said. "
With the victory, Ferris State improved to 13-5 overall and 9-2 in GLIAC play. The win was the Bulldogs seventh in their last eight encounters this campaign, including the fifth-straight triumph.
Meanwhile, Northern Michigan dropped to 6-11 and 1-9 in the conference under first-year head coach Doug Lewis, who guided Central State (Ohio) to the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional as an independent school a year ago.
NMU also had three players reach double-digit scoring with DeAndre Taylor producing a team-high total of 14 points and six rebounds. Both Mylan Murphy and Martin Gross added 11 points apiece. FSU held the Wildcats' leading scorer in center Jared Benson to only five points as he played only 12 minutes due to foul trouble.
Saturday's victory over Northern Michigan was the Bulldogs' 17th win versus the Wildcats in 20 meetings with Sall at the FSU helm.
Next up for the Bulldogs is the "131 Showdown" at Van Andel Arena against Grand Valley State on Saturday (Jan. 29). The women's contest will be played first starting at 6 p.m. (ET) with the men's game to follow at 8 p.m. (ET). Tickets can be bought online by visiting www.131showdown.com.
"It's great to be playing Grand Valley and I know we'll be focused, but we need to do a better job of execution," said Sall.
Bulldog Bites: The game featured two lead changes, but the Wildcats' largest margin was only a three-point edge midway thru the first half ..... Justin Keenan presently has scored 1,975 points and is only 25 away from becoming the second player in Bulldog history to reach the 2,000 points mark. Former standout Dennis Johnson (1969-73) is the school's all-time leader with 2,312 points ..... Keenan has now reached double-figures 97 times in 102 career contests ...... The Bulldogs have won 11 of their last 12 home games dating back to last season ...... Ferris is only three wins shy now of the 1,000th victory in program history ..... Senior guard Matt DeHart (Greenville) had his four-game double-figure scoring streak end, but pulled down seven rebounds in the contest.