Lakers upset No. 11-ranked Ferris State on the road

Courtesy Sam Downs/LSSU Public Relations
Courtesy Sam Downs/LSSU Public Relations

BIG RAPIDS, Mich. – Lake Superior State men's basketball held on late in the second half to upset No. 11-ranked and Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference front runners Ferris State, 83-79, on Thursday.

The victory is the fourth-straight for the Lakers (14-7, 11-6 GLIAC) and snapped a 15-game winning streak held by the Bulldogs (20-4, 14-3 GLIAC), helping FSU reach as high as 11th nationally in the NCAA Division II poll entering the week.

In a tightly contested first half of play, LSSU built a six-point lead while both teams shot well from the field. LSSU went 17-for-30 from the field (56.7 percent) and 8-of-14 from behind the arc (57.1 percent) while the Bulldogs shot 15-for-29 (51.7 percent) from the field, but only managed to hit 2-of-9 three-point attempts.

Out of the halftime break, junior guard Akaemji Williams hit a three with 16:09 remaining to give the Lakers a 52-44 lead. As both teams failed to score for the next minute and a half, Zach Hankins finally stopped the scoring drought with a tip in to start a 6-0 run for the Bulldogs. LSSU went three minutes and 23 seconds without scoring following the three from Williams until senior center Michael Smutny's put-back  gave the Lakers a 54-50 lead with 12:46 remaining.

Just over a minute later, after stealing the ball from Noah King, Smutny knocked down a three-pointer to again give the Lakers another four-point advantage, 57-53, with 11:32 left in the game.

With 6:49 remaining sophomore Carson Manger put the Lakers ahead 70-61 with a made layup. Again the Bulldogs answered with a 5-0 run, but senior guard Jordan Dasuqi answered with a three to extend the Lakers lead, 73-66 with 4:04 remaining.

Late in the contest Drew Cushingberry made a pair of free throws to cut the LSSU lead to 76-74 with  1:02 remaining. Out of a 30-second timeout by the Bulldogs, Lakers' junior center Michael Nicholson slammed home a dunk while getting fouled by Zach Hankins on a feed from Williams with 10 seconds left on the shot clock and 42 seconds left on the game clock. The foul by Hankins was the sophomore center's fifth of the game and forced him to exit the dynamic big-man battle between him and Nicholson before the final horn.

Nicholson was unable to hit the free throw, and with 31 seconds left, Cushinberry hit another pair of free throws to draw FSU to within two points of LSSU. Cushingberry went on to hit another pair of free throws 20 seconds later to cut the LSSU lead to 80-79 with 11 seconds left.

After Williams made 1-of-2 free throws on the next possession, Cushingberry had a chance to give the Bulldogs a one-point lead with three seconds remaining, however, his shot did not drop and Nicholson collected the rebound.

Despite shooting just 53.7 percent from the charity stripe this season, Nicholson iced the game with a pair of free throws to put the Lakers back ahead by four with two seconds remaining. Nicholson finished off a stellar night going 6-for-7 from the free throw line.

Nicholson finished with 18 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field and racked up a double-double with 14 rebounds (10 defensive). The native of Clarkston, Mich., also led the Lakers with three blocks.

Williams led the Lakers with 20 points and added six assists and two steals.

LSSU made 13-of-22 attempts from behind the arc (59.1 percent) in the game, led by senior Jordan Dasuqi's 5-for-8 mark from deep to score 17 points.

Hankins and Cushingberry each finished with 17 points to lead the Bulldogs.  Guard Peter Firlik finished with 14 points and King scored 10 points to round out the FSU starters reaching double digits in scoring.

The Lakers enter Saturday's rematch with Grand Valley State tied with Michigan Tech for second place in the GLIAC North Division following 68-47 loss by the Huskies at home against Wayne State on Thursday. Saturday's game at GVSU is slated for 3 p.m.