Big Rapids, Mich. - The Ferris State University men's basketball program continued its recent dominance over Northern Michigan as the Bulldogs pulled out a 69-63 win over the Wildcats in Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) North Division play on Saturday (Feb. 9) at the Berry Events Center in Marquette.
Ferris State scored the opening 11 points of the contest and never trailed in beating NMU for the 11th consecutive time and the 21st overall victory in the last 24 matchups under 11th-year head coach Bill Sall. The win also gave FSU a split on its annual road trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula as the Bulldogs bounced back from a setback on Thursday night at Michigan Tech.
The Bulldogs jumped in front early and led 31-24 at halftime against the Wildcats, who fell to 5-16 overall and 4-13 in the GLIAC this campaign. FSU improved to 12-9 overall and 11-6 in conference competition.
Ferris State led by as many as 13 points in the second half with 7:42 to play, but the Wildcats never fully went ahead and FSU had to come up with some clutch plays down the stretch to seal the win. Northern Michigan climbed back with four points at 65-61 with 31 seconds remaining before the Bulldogs hit all four of their free throws in the final 20 seconds to account for the final margin.
Sophomore guard Drew Lehman paced FSU with a game-high tying 17 points and added three rebounds and three steals while hitting all eight of his free throw tries. He was one of four Bulldog players to reach double-digit scoring in the game, which began with an early 11 a.m. start due to a tripleheader between the Bulldogs and the Wildcats with women's basketball and Saturday night hockey also part of the day.
In addition to Lehman, sophomore guard Dietrich Lever added 16 points and dished out four assists with two steals in the win. Senior guard Kenny Brown added 14 points while senior forward Daniel Sutherlin netted 10 points for FSU.
The Bulldogs hit 43.1% of their field goal tries and made five-of-12 (41.7%) three's in addition to 20-of-23 (87%) free throws.
Meanwhile, Northern Michigan received 17 points from Kendall Jackson along with 14 points by Matthew Craggs and 11 each by TJ Cameron and Stephen Pelkofer. Craggs had a game-best eight rebounds in the losing effort for NMU.
The Wildcats connected on 55% of their field goals, including 12-of-18 (66.7%) in the second half alone. However, they also turned the ball over 11 times in the game and the Bulldogs finished with only two turnovers, which helped lead to a 9-3 margin in points off miscues. FSU came into the week ranked among the nation's top 10 teams in fewest turnovers and continued that trend.
NMU made only two-of-seven (28.6%) three's and was 17-of-23 (73.9%) at the stripe for the afternoon. They did own a 28-24 rebounding edge, but gave up nine offensive caroms to the Bulldogs as both teams finished with 12 second chance points. Northern Michigan owned a commanding 36-14 margin in points scored inside the paint.
Besides Lever's four assists, FSU also received three helpers each from both Lehman and sophomore forward Trent Messer.
The victory allowed Ferris State to climb within a game of Grand Valley State for third place in the GLIAC North. It also gave FSU a season sweep over the Wildcats following a 51-41 home win at Jim Wink Arena in Big Rapids back on Jan. 12.
Ferris State has not lost to Northern Michigan in more than five years as the Wildcats' last series' victory was a 71-57 triumph at the Berry Events Center back on Jan. 24 of 2008.
The Bulldogs return home for two league games next week. FSU hosts Northwood this coming Thursday as part of a Valentine's Day clash at Wink Arena with tipoff slated for 6 p.m. (ET). Fans are asked to wear red as part of a "Red Out Effort" and several promotional activities are planned.
Thursday's game is being designated as Resident Appreciation and Healthy Hearts Night. The first 300 on-campus residents thru the door will receive a free shirt while the first 500 fans in attendance will receive a rally towel. There will also be a special halftime drawing for $3,000 worth of prizes.
Following Thursday's contest, the Bulldogs host Lake Superior State next Saturday, Feb. 16, at 12 p.m. (ET).