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(Players: Justin Keenan, Matt DeHart & Coach Bill Sall)
Big Rapids, Mich. - The Ferris State University men's basketball program reached an impressive milestone on Saturday (Feb. 5) as the Bulldogs notched their 1,000th all-time win with a close 70-68 victory over Saginaw Valley State at FSU's Jim Wink Arena.
The Bulldogs became one of only a handful of Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) men's or women's basketball programs to attain the mark while holding onto first place in the GLIAC North Division standings and keeping their perfect home record intact this campaign.
Ferris State bolted out to a 38-30 halftime advantage before the Cardinals outscored FSU 38-32 over the final 20 minutes. Ferris led by 12 points with 17:56 to go, but SVSU rallied and eventually took a one-point lead at 49-48 with 12:14 to play.
FSU followed with a 9-2 run fueled by seven points from senior guard Darien Gay (Detroit/Henry Ford) and a dunk by senior forward Lou Williams (Muskegon Heights) to quickly jump the margin back to six. Saginaw Valley State pulled back within two points on a three-pointer by Greg Foster with 2:20 left, but a Bulldog trey by junior guard Donate Molden (Detroit/Pershing) pushed it back to five with 1:47 remaining.
The Cardinals came back within three points with only 90 seconds to go before Ferris senior standout Justin Keenan (Grand Rapids/Ottawa Hills) hit a rare three-pointer to make it a 68-62 score with 56 seconds on the clock.
SVSU chipped into the lead once more and trimmed the deficit to two points with 25 seconds left before FSU sophomore guard Kenny Brown (Farmington Hills/Harrison) connected on a pair of free throws to give Ferris a four-point lead with 23 seconds remaining.
The Cardinals scored on a Foster layup and Keenan missed the front end of a one-and-one situation with 13 seconds to go as SVSU had a chance to tie in the closing seconds. However, a shot by Foster came up short and Williams grabbed the rebound for the Bulldogs as time expired to preserve the win.
"You have a give Saginaw Valley a lot of credit," said FSU head coach Bill Sall. "We did a lot of good things today and made some big shots at the end, but they are a good team and much better than their record shows."
Keenan paced the Bulldogs with a game-high tying 21 points and a contest-best 11 rebounds in yet another double-double showing. Thirteen of his points came in the initial frame as FSU shot 46.7% (14-30) in the first half.
In addition to Keenan's showing, the Bulldogs also received 20 points from Gay, who nailed five three-point baskets in the victory.
Williams also left his mark on the game with a school-record eight blocked shots to go with eight rebounds and five points. The squad's fourth senior, Matt DeHart (Greenville), tallied nine points and made three long-range tries while Molden dished out a game-high 11 assists to go with five points. Brown added eight points in a reserve role.
The Cardinals kept the game close behind the play of Foster along with guard Michael Fugate and senior forward Keithan Jackson. Foster fished with 21 points while Fugate had 20 and Jackson added 18 points along with 10 boards in a double-double showing of his own.
The Bulldogs shot 41.7% (25-60) from the floor and made 12-of-26 (46.2%) three's, but shot only 50% (8-16) at the free throw stripe. Meanwhile, the Cardinals connected on 23-of-53 (43.4%) field goals and 11-of-21 (52.4%) three-pointers in addition to 11-of-20 (55%) tries at the charity stripe.
FSU forced 14 Cardinal turnovers, which led to a 14-6 advantage in points of miscues. Ferris also grabbed 14 offensive boards in the game and held a 20-11 margin in second chance scoring.
Behind the distribution of Molden, the Bulldogs tallied 19 assists and also had two steals. Williams had eight of the Bulldogs' nine blocked shots. SVSU totaled 10 asissts, four steals and three blocks for the game.
With the win, Ferris State improved to 16-5 overall and 12-2 in the conference this season. The win was FSU's eighth in a row and the Bulldogs have now won 10 of their last 11 outings for the year. Ferris still holds a one-game lead over rival Grand Valley State in the North Division with five regular-season games remaining on the conference slate.
"We definitely wanted to come back today and play with a little more enthusiasm than we did on Thursday and Lake Superior and I think we accomplished that today," said Keenan. "We played tough and withstood their runs and played well overall."
In addition, the victory also enabled the Bulldogs to improve to 10-0 overall inside Wink Arena this season. After a trip to Ohio this coming week, the Bulldogs will play their final three regular-season games at home with all three coming against teams that have been ranked nationally this season in Wayne State, Findlay and Grand Valley State.
SVSU dropped to 10-10 overall and 6-8 in league play with the setback.
The Bulldogs will hit the road next week for a pair of league contests. FSU visits Lake Erie for the first-time ever on Thursday, Feb. 10, with tipoff set for 6 p.m. (ET) in Painsville, Ohio. Ferris then takes on Ashland next Saturday, Feb. 12, in a 1 p.m. (ET) conference game at Ashland, Ohio.
FSU is planning to celebrate the program's 1,000 wins in a special celebration held in conjunction with the regular-season finale versus GVSU on Feb. 26 at Wink Arena.
"There's not many schools that have as proud of a tradition as Ferris State and it's a culmination of the great players and coaches who have been here in the past," said Sall. "It's a proud tradition and we certainly are very humbled to be the team that got the 1,000th win."
Bulldog Bites: SVSU had won six of its previous seven games entering the contest ..... Justin Keenan now needs only 80 points to tie former Grand Valley State standou John Flynn to become the GLIAC's all-time career scoring leader ..... Fans were treated to a special halftime performance by Fiddlers ReStrung as part of the Big Rapids area's Festival of the Arts celebration ..... The win gave the Bulldogs a sweep of the season series against SVSU ...... Ferris improved to 49-33 all-time against the Cardinals and FSU has now won 13 of the last 20 meetings ..... The game featured four lead changes and the score was tied three times ..... Ferris totaled 22 points inside the paint to 20 for the Cardinals.