Lakers travel to face Upper Peninsula rivals this weekend

Photo Courtesy Sam Downs
Photo Courtesy Sam Downs
Lake Superior State Men's Basketball
 Record  9-4, 6-3 GLIAC
 at Northern Michigan  8 p.m. ET, Thursday
 at Michigan Tech  3 p.m. ET, Saturday 
 Video  NMU | MTU

 Audio

 ESPN 1400
 Live Stats  NMU | MTU
 GLIAC Stats  GLIAC Leaders
 NMU Record  5-9, 3-6 GLIAC
 MTU Record

 8-8, 6-3 GLIAC

Opening Tip

SAULT STE. MARIE- Lake Superior State men's basketball hits the road this week to face Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference North Division rivals Northern Michigan and Michigan Tech.

The week opens at 8:00 p.m. on Thursday with the Lakers (9-4, 6-3 GLIAC) in Marquette to face the Wildcats (5-9, 3-6 GLIAC) and concludes with Saturday's 3 p.m. meeting in Houghton against the Huskies (8-8, 6-3 GLIAC).

The Huskies enter the week tied with the Lakers, Wayne State, and Grand Valley State for second in the North Division standings.

Laker Notes

  • LSSU enters the week leading the GLIAC and ranking eighth nationally in scoring, averaging 93.0 points per game.
  • The Lakers also enter the week with the conference's second-best field goal percentage (49.9).
  • From behind the arc this season, the Lakers lead all GLIAC teams in three-point field goal percentage (40.8).
  • Defensively, the Lakers rank 14th among GLIAC teams in points allowed per game (80.8) but limit their opponents to tie for the sixth-lowest field goal percentage (42.8) and the second-lowest three-point field percentage against (31.9).
  • At 23.0 points per game, junior guard Akaemji Williams now ranks second among GLIAC players and 10th nationally.
  • Williams also ranks second nationally in assists per game (9.3) and steals per game (3.15), leading the GLIAC in both categories.
  • Williams, a native of Pontiac, Mich., has been named the GLIAC North Division Player of the Week twice this season and the junior guard also notched his 1,000th career point earlier this season in a 90-85 victory over Findlay (Dec. 10).
  • Through 13 games this season Williams has scored at least 30 points on five occasions and has at least eight assists in all but one game.
  • Williams has six double-doubles on the season via points and assists.
  • Leading the Lakers from deep is the sophomore starting duo of Blake Marquardt and Carson Manger. Marquardt ranks fifth among GLIAC shooters with a 47.4 percent clip from behind the arc, while Manger is hitting on 44.8 percent of his three-point attempts, ranking eighth in the GLIAC.
  • Also cracking the top-10 among GLIAC sharpshooters is senior guard Jordan Dasuqi at 43.6 percent from beyond the arc this season.
  • Marquardt ranks 16th among GLIAC scorers at 14.4 points per game.
  • Also checking in at the top-30 conference scorers this season is Manger at 12.5 points per game to rank 28th
  • Junior center and fellow starter Michael Nicholson averages 12.4 points per game. The Clarkston, Mich., native also ranks ninth among GLIAC players in rebounding with 7.0 boards per contest and ranks tied for fifth with 1.5 blocks per game.
  • Nicholson ranks third among GLIAC players with a 64.3 field-goal percentage on the season.
  • Also contributing to the Lakers' high-profile offense is a team assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.50 with 235 assists and 157 turnovers. The Lakers are 11th nationally and trail MTU by one one-hundredth of a percent for the top mark in the GLIAC.
  • At 18.1 assists per game, the Lakers also rank 15th nationally and lead all GLIAC teams.

This Week's Matchups

Northern Michigan

The Wildcats have struggled at home this season, producing a 1-5 record at home, but are riding a two-game winning streak following road victories over Saginaw Valley and Wayne State last weekend.

NMU has struggled to score this season, ranking 12th overall among GLIAC teams with 71.6 points per game and ranking 14th during GLIAC play with 68.3 points per game against conference opponents.

Despite their scoring struggles, all five starters average double figures in scoring this season, led by sophomore guard Naba Echols. Echols ranks 10th among GLIAC players in scoring (15.9 ppg) and leads the Wildcats while ranking fifth among GLIAC players with 4.0 assists per game.

Michigan Tech

MTU enters the week with a 6-3 conference record, despite a mediocre 8-8 record overall. Like the Wildcats, the Huskies are riding a two-game winning streak following road victories over Wayne State and SVSU last week. They also have struggled at home this season, holding a 2-4 record in home contests.

The Huskies lead the GLIAC in both three-point field goals made (10.3) and attempted (26.6) per game this season while ranking fifth in three-point field-goal percentage  (38.7).

Freshman guard Tommy Lucca leads the team and ranks fourth in overall GLIAC scoring (18.6 ppg)this season, while sophomore forward and reigning GLIAC Freshman of the Year Kyle Monroe ranks sixth among conference players with 17.7 points per game. Monroe also leads the Huskies with 7.2 rebounds per game.

Last Week (Ferris State, 111-103, L| Grand Valley State 99-78, W)

The Lakers opened last weekend's homestand with just their second loss at home this season, falling to Ferris State, 111-103.

The Lakers fought back from a 13-point deficit with 5:32 remaining in the opening half, using a 15-2 run to tie the game 46-46 with 2:15 left in the first half. Senior center Michael Smutny connected on a pair of three-point field goals and two free throws during the stretch, giving the Lakers eight points in six minutes off the bench during the first half.

Out of halftime, the teams traded baskets back and forth and went into the first media timeout of the second half with the Lakers trailing by a single point following a three-pointer from junior guard Williams.  The trey from Williams with just over 15 minutes left in the game was already his ninth point of the half, finishing with 17 in the second half alone.

Moments later junior forward Jessy Cantinol sunk a pair of free throws to tie the game at 64-64 with 14:02 remaining. After the Lakers drew the game even, the Bulldogs responded with a 17-7 run over the next four minutes, capped by Peter Firlik's three-pointer with 10:11 remaining to put FSU ahead 81-71 and forcing LSSU to call a timeout.

Again, the teams traded baskets over the final 10 minutes with LSSU only coming as close as six points with 48 seconds remaining following a dunk by Nicholson. FSU finished the game by hitting four-of-six free throws in the final minute to keep the Lakers at bay.

Williams led all scorers with 28 points and collected his fifth double-double of the season with 11 assists, marking his 11th time producing at least eight assists in a game this season. Williams also tallied six rebounds, two steals and registered a block in 38 minutes of work.

Following the loss to Ferris State, the Lakers responded by running away with a 99-78 victory on Saturday against GVSU. The Lakers jumped out to an 18-point lead with 4:45 remaining in the first half, following a tip-in by Smutny. GVSU (10-6, 6-3 GLIAC), however, finished the half on a 17-4 run, cutting the LSSU lead to just 42-37 at the break.

Both teams hit identical marks of 16-for-30 (53.3 percent) from the field in the second half, but LSSU was able to hit 6-of-11 (54.5 percent) shots from behind the arc, compared to GVSU's 3-for-11 (27.3 percent) mark. LSSU also connected on 19-of-22 from the free throw line, while GVSU made just six-of-eight during the final 20 minutes, allowing the Lakers to build a 24-point lead with 2:26 remaining in the contest, their largest lead of the game.

Williams led all scorers with 23 points, followed by Marquardt with 22 points. Williams also finished with a game-high 12 assists for his sixth double-double of the season. Manger also chipped in 12 points and came one rebound short of a double-double of his own.

A Look Ahead

Next week the Lakers remain on the road, continuing play in the North Division against Saginaw Valley on Jan. 26, and at Wayne State on Jan. 28.

The Lakers return home the following week, hosting Northwood on Monday, Jan. 30. That weekend the Lakers host NMU Feb. 2, and MTU on Feb. 4.