Big Rapids, Mich. - The Ferris State University men's basketball team's quest to finish unbeaten at home in Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) play fell short on Saturday (Feb. 23) as the Bulldogs suffered a 75-67 setback to Saginaw Valley State in their final home contest of the regular-season inside FSU's Jim Wink Arena.
The loss was the first for the Bulldogs in 11 conference home games this season and snapped a 10-game conference homecourt winning streak in Big Rapids, which was the longest in the GLIAC.
The Bulldogs led by as many as 11 points in the opening half with nine minutes remaining and took a two-point lead at the break on a pair of free throws in the final second. However, SVSU outscored FSU 48-38 in the final 20 minutes to notch the victory and even the season series' between the two programs. The Bulldogs had previously captured a 50-47 win on a buzzer beater in University Center on Jan. 26.
Ferris State's final home contest also marked the last home game in regular-season action for the senior combination of guard Kenny Brown and forward Daniel Sutherlin. Both have been integral members of the playing rotation throughout their careers and were part of back-to-back GLIAC North Division Championship teams the last two seasons.
Brown finished with 17 points, six rebounds, two assists and two blocks in his last home game. He hit a three-pointers with 2:51 to play to draw the Bulldogs back within seven points after SVSU had surged ahead by 11 points with 4:21 left. Then, he followed with two free throws with 2:34 remaining to cut the margin to only five points.
The Cardinals, though, responded with four free throws along with a dunk from senior Chris Webb to push the margin back to 11 points with one minute to play as Brown could not connect on a pair of three's on the Bulldogs' offensive possessions. Ferris State could get no closer than six points the rest of the way as the Cardinals sank nine free throws in the final minute to pull out the win.
After the two Bulldog seniors were honored in a special pregame ceremony, Sutherlin started the contest and played the opening minute after missing the last three games with a season-ending foot injury. His lone field goal try narrowly missed before he was pulled from the game and received a standing ovation from fans.
Sutherlin's appearance provided a lift for the Bulldogs early as Ferris State bolted out to a quick 15-5 edge. FSU held an 11-point advantage with 6:39 left in the half before the Cardinals closed the frame on a 16-7 run to make it a two-point game at the break. Despite the close score much of the way, the contest was tied only once in the final minute of the opening half and the lead changed hands only two times with SVSU grabbing the game's final advantage with 14:39 remaining.
In addition to Brown, the Bulldogs also received 18 points from sophomore guard Dietrich Lever, who made six-of-nine field goals and hit all four of his free throw tries. Freshman guard Jibreel Jackson and sophomore forward Trent Messer both added seven points in the setback while redshirt freshman center Jared Stolickher and sophomore guard Drew Lehman totaled six points each.
Saginaw Valley State was led by Webb's game-high 21 points, which included seven from the free throw stripe. Brett Beland added 18 points, Damon Bozeman chipped in 14 points and Rob Clark contributed 11 points for the Cardinals. Kellen Smith recorded nine points in the win and also had a game-high 12 rebounds in the contest.
The Bulldogs shot 44.6% for the game, including a 54.2% effort in the final 20 minutes, but were only four-of-16 (25%) from beyond the three-point arc. FSU sank 13-of-15 (86.7%) free throws.
Meanwhile, Saginaw Valley State finished shooting 40.7% and was four-of-22 (18.2%) from three-point range along with 27-of-33 (81.8%) at the line.
Saginaw Valley State forced 12 turnovers by the Bulldogs, who came into the week ranked third in the country in fewest turnovers per game. While the 12 miscues were only two above FSU's season average, the Cardinals turned the turnovers into a 21-4 edge in points off them. SVSU had only nine turnovers on the day.
The cardinals also held a 36-31 rebounding advantage and pulled down 12 offensive boards to nine for the Bulldogs, which gave Saginaw Valley State a 12-10 margin in second chance production. Defensively, they also had six steals to the Bulldogs' five although FSU totaled four blocked shots to one for the Cardinals.
Stolicker and Messer both paced FSU on the glass with seven rebounds each while Brown had six and freshman forward Josh Fleming added five.
Ferris State had won 16 of the last 24 matchups between the two teams going into the 87th series' matchup, but it marked the second-straight year in which the two squads split the two league regular-season matchups.
With the setback, the Bulldogs fell to 14-11 overall and 13-8 in the GLIAC while Saginaw Valley State improved to 12-12 overall and 10-11 in league action.
Ferris State will close out the regular-season by visiting West Michigan rival Grand Valley State next Saturday (March 2) evening in Allendale. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. (ET) inside the GVSU Fieldhouse Arena. The Bulldogs pulled out a close 59-58 victory in the first meeting this year between the two rivals on Feb. 2 in Big Rapids.
Following Saturday's action, the Bulldogs currently remain a game behind the Lakers in the GLIAC North Division and are battling both GVSU and Hillsdale for the number four seed in the upcoming GLIAC Tournament and the right to host one of four quarterfinal-round games on Wednesday, March 6.