Ferris State Tops Northern Michigan In Exciting GLIAC North Showdown
Big Rapids, Mich. - The Ferris State University men's basketball team had four players reach double-figure scoring and made critical plays down the stretch as the Bulldogs topped Northern Michigan 74-65 in an exciting Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) contest on Saturday (Feb. 8) afternoon inside FSU's Jim Wink Arena.
The Bulldogs spoiled the return of former FSU head coach and current Northern Michigan coach Bill Sall as his former assistant and current Bulldog first-year head coach Andy Bronkema scored the victory to even the season series at a game apiece.
For the second-straight outing, the Bulldogs play inspired and competitive basketball as Ferris State battled the Wildcats for the entire afternoon. A trio of Ferris State guards in sophomore Jibreel Jackson along with juniors Dietrich Lever and Drew Lehman literally battled all day by playing the entire 40 minutes as the Bulldogs limited the rotation. Eight players saw action with only six seeing more than 10 minutes of action.
Lehman led the way in the first half for the Bulldogs as he scored 13 points to help FSU out to a 31-25 halftime edge. In the second half, it was Lever who scored 13 points in helping lead the cause. Lehman finished with a game-high tying 18 points while Lever chipped in 17 points along with six assists.
Ferris State also received a stellar performance from sophomore forward Josh Fleming, who netted 16 points on six-of-nine shooting and pulled down six rebounds with two steals in playing 33 minutes. Senior forward Raymoan McAfee provided the spark on the inside with 11 points as the duo combined for several key baskets on tip-ins and putbacks to keep the Bulldogs in front.
Northern Michigan led by three only five minutes into the game before Ferris State eventually took a nine-point lead with a minute to go late in the first half.
The opening nine minutes of the second period proved to be crucial as Ferris State increased its lead to as many as 15 points with 10:55 to play and the Wildcats could get no closer than eight the rest of the way. FSU sealed the victory by sinking six-of-six free throws in the final minute.
For the second consecutive game, Ferris State shot the ball extremely well as the Bulldogs connected on 57.8% of their field goal attempts and made three-of-five (60%) long range tries. The Bulldogs also hit 19-of-24 (79.2%) free throws.
Defensively, the Bulldogs limited Northern Michigan to only 36% shooting in the opening half and a 40.4% figure for the game with the Wildcats hitting eight-of-19 (42.1%) three's and 15-of-19 (78.9%) free throws.
Freshman guard Marcus Hall helped keep NMU in the game as he scored 18 points and made a trio of three pointers to go along with a seven-of-seven showing at the line. The Wildcats also received 12 points off the bench from Chavis Mattison in addition to 11 by Justin Newell.
The Bulldogs held a decisive edge in the paint as FSU totaled 30 points to 16 for Northern Michigan and Ferris State also totaled 13 second chance points to 12 for the Wildcats despite the fact NMU pulled down 13 offensive caroms to eight for Ferris State.
Overall, the Bulldogs slightly outrebounded the Wildcats 27-26 and FSU also forced 12 Northern Michigan turnovers with only 10 of their own. Both teams finished with four steals and four blocked shots apiece.
Behind Lever's game-best six assists, the Bulldogs totaled 15 helpers with Lehman adding three and Jackson distributing two for the game. NMU finished with 13 assists, including five from point guard Ethan Blackwell and four by Terry Nash.
Despite the fact the contest was close much of the way, though, it was tied only four times and the game featured only a single lead change as Ferris State never trailed in the final 34 minutes of the game.
The victory snapped a Bulldog losing streak dating back to early January and lifted FSU to 7-13 overall and 6-10 in the conference standings. NMU fell to 4-17 overall and 3-14 in league action in Sall's first season at the helm.
Before taking over the Northern Michigan program last summer, Sall served as the Bulldog head coach for 11 seasons and led FSU to four GLIAC North Division Championships along with three NCAA Tournament appearances, including a pair of trips to the Sweet Sixteen. Bronkema was on his staff for the past six seasons before taking over the FSU program.
The win continued the Bulldogs' recent domination of the Wildcats as Ferris State has now claimed 22 of the last 26 series' contests between the two schools. FSU had won 11 matchups in a row before the Wildcats scored a 61-59 win in Marquette on Jan. 18 in Sall's first contest against his former team.
Ferris State will play a pair of league games on the road next week as the Bulldogs attempt to get the momentum going in GLIAC North Division action. FSU visits Northwood on Thursday (Feb. 13) for a 8 p.m. (ET) league tilt in Midland before facing Lake Superior State on Saturday (Feb. 15) beginning at 3 p.m. (ET) in Sault Ste. Marie.