FSU Men Clinch Share Of GLIAC North Crown!

Ferris State's Justin Keenan handles the ball as the Bulldogs take on Wayne State (Photo by Ben Amato)

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Postgame Press Conference Video
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(Players: Lou Williams, Justin Keenan & Coach Bill Sall)

Big Rapids, Mich. - The Ferris State University men's basketball team clinched at least a share of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) North Division Championship with a 78-66 league win over Wayne State on Thursday (Feb. 17) evening inside FSU's Jim Wink Arena.

With the win, Ferris maintained its two-game lead over rival Grand Valley State in the North Division standings with only two games left in the regular-season.  The divisional crown is FSU's first since winning back-to-back North Division titles in 2003-04 and 2004-05.

The victory was FSU's 11th consecutive this campaign and 13th in the school's last 14 outings.  The Bulldogs also remained unbeaten at home (11-0) inside Wink Arena this year.

Wayne State grabbed a five-point lead only nine minutes into the game before the Bulldogs battled back to take a slim 35-33 halftime advantage before a crowd of more than 900 fans.  The contest featured eight lead changes and the score was tied six times on the night.

The Bulldogs opened the second half on a 13-6 run over the first six-plus minutes to build a nine-point edge with 13:37 remaining in the contest. WSU eventually pulled back within five points on a three-pointer with 7:39 to go, but FSU senior guard Matt DeHart (Greenville) answered with a triple of his own to quickly push the lead right back to eight points.

Ferris followed with a trey by senior guard Darien Gay (Detroit/Henry Ford) followed by a layup from senior forward Lou Williams (Muskegon Heights) and a three-pointer from sophomore guard Kenny Brown (Farmington Hills/Harrison) to push the advantage to 14 points with only 3:11 left in the game.

However, the Warriors once again drew within five points on a layup from Bryan Smothers with 1:22 to play before the Bulldogs sank eight free throws in the final 56 seconds to secure the victory.

Senior forward/center Justin Keenan (Grand Rapids/Ottawa Hills) led five Bulldog players in double-figures with 22 points in the game.  He also added seven rebounds and now needs only 19 points to tie and 20 more to surpass former Grand Valley State standout John Flynn to become the GLIAC's all-time career scoring leader (based on league games).  Flynn tallied 1,531 points over his four-year career in conference games to set the league mark.

"It feels good, but we've got another big game on Saturday and we don't want to share the championship with anybody," Keenan said.

Keenan was joined in double-digits by Gay, who had 15 points.  Both DeHart and Williams added 12 points apiece as the squad's four seniors led the effort.  Brown was close behind with 11 points in the outing.

Ferris shot 48% (24-50) for the night and made five-of-13 (38.5%) three-pointers in earning the victory.  FSU also converted 25-of-36 (69.4%) free throws, including 15-of-22 (68.32%) in the final half.

The Bulldogs owned a commanding 35-23 rebounding edge and grabbed 12 offensive boards compared to only four for the Warriors as FSU outscored WSU 11-6 in second chance production. Additionally, the Bulldogs forced 14 Wayne State turnovers while limiting their own to only 10 in posting a 19-9 advantage in points off miscues.

"We asked them to rebound and limit our turnovers and defensively in the second half we did a tremendous job," FSU head coach Bill Sall said.  "In this game, they did pretty much everything we asked them to do.  We've got to finish games a little better, but we'll get there."

On the opposite side, Wayne State shot 47.8% (22-46), but was only four-of-13 (30.8%) beyond the arc, including making only one-of-six (16.7%) tries in the final 20 minutes.  WSU was 18-of-26 (69.2%) at the free throw stripe.

Smothers led Wayne State with a game-high 25 points with Mike Hollingsworth adding 18 points in the setback as WSU fell to 17-6 overall and 12-4 in the GLIAC.  The Warriors entered the contest second overall in the GLIAC South Division standings behind nationally third-ranked Findlay, which fell to GVSU on Thursday evening in Allendale.

Ferris dished out 14 assists with junior guard Dontae Molden (Detroit/Pershing) handing out four to go with a contest-best three steals.  Both Gay and Keenan had three assists apiece.  The Bulldogs totaled seven steals and had two blocked shots, which both came from Williams as he tied Adam Anderson's school single-season record of 50 blocks.

Wayne State managed 13 assists, three steals and a single block.

FSU improved to 19-5 overall and 15-2 in the conference this campaign. The 19 victories are the program's most since reaching the NCAA Division II Sweet Sixteen with a 24-7 mark in 2004-05 and the Bulldogs' 15 league wins are the second-most in school history behind only the 16-0 GLIAC record recorded in 1988-89.

"It feels pretty good, but we've still got a long ways to go," said Williams.

The victory was also an important regional win for FSU as Wayne State entered the contest ranked sixth and Ferris ninth in the NCAA-II Midwest Regional Rankings.  The top eight teams at the end of the year will earn bids into the NCAA-II Tournament.

Ferris State will have little time to celebrate as the Bulldogs return to the floor by hosting Findlay on Saturday (Feb. 19) in a battle of the GLIAC's divisional leaders at Wink Arena.  Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. (ET) and tickets will be available at the door.  Saturday is also "Kidz Day" sponsored by Green's Sporting Goods.

"Every game is a big game now," said Sall.  "We'll be ready and I know they will too.  That's what championship basketball is all about."

Bulldog Bites: Ferris State held a 13-0 advantage in fast break scoring for the game ..... The Bulldog reserves outscored the Wayne State bench by a 17-6 count ...... Sophomore guard Brandyn Mungo (Westland/Detroit Renaissance) tallied four points and two rebounds in six minutes off the bench and was two-of-two from the floor ....... Justin Keenan's 22 points marked the 102nd time he's reached double-digits in 108 career outings ..... Kenny Brown has reached double-figures in each of FSU's last three contests ..... FSU had dropped 12 of the last 16 series' meetings versus the Warriors prior to the victory ...... The league division title is Ferris' third under head coach Bill Sall ..... Following Saturday's game versus Findlay, the Bulldogs will host archrival GVSU in the regular-season finale next Saturday (Feb. 26) at Wink Arena and will celebrate its impressive basketball tradition by holding a "1,000 Wins Celebration" with all former players invited back to campus ..... Thursday's game marked FSU's annual "Pink Wave Night" in support of breast cancer research.  The Bulldogs wore pink shooting shirts.