February 15, 2012

Basketball teams close out regular season with three home games

SAULT STE. MARIE – The Lake Superior State men’s and women’s basketball teams play their last three regular-season games at home, beginning with Saturday’s double-header against Northwood. Both Laker teams have a chance to end on a high note and possibly advance to the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament.

The LSSU women (9-14 overall, 5-11 GLIAC) play host to Northwood (10-12 overall, 5-10 GLIAC) at 1 p.m. at Bud Cooper Gymnasium. The Laker men (11-12 overall, 6-10 GLIAC) meet the Timberwolves (15-7 overall, 10-5 GLIAC) at 3 p.m. Both games will be broadcast live of WSOO 1230 AM.

After starting out 1-9 in the GLIAC, the Laker women are 4-2 during their last six games and have avenged losses to Grand Valley State, Saginaw Valley State and Northern Michigan. They also hope to avenge a 66-50 loss to Northwood on Dec. 3.

“We need to continue to play within our means,” senior center Cassy Schemberger said. “We can’t diverge off that path that Coach has laid out for us. I don’t know how it happens, but it does…Time and time again it’s proven that what he sets up for us works. If we play together, execute our offense and play tenacious D – when we fall apart defensively, that’s when we fall apart offensively. If we stay within our defensive principals, we win.”

Northwood is ranked 10th in the GLIAC in scoring defense at 64.9 points allowed per game and LSSU is 12th at 66.7 ppg, so Saturday’s contest may come down to which team has the better defensive game. NU is led by 6-3 senior forward/center Savannah Stedman, who averages 16.3 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. She compiled 18 points and 12 rebounds against the Lakers in December, and was one of four double-figure scorers for NU. LSSU junior forward Maria Blazejewsi, who averages 15.4 ppg in the GLIAC, scored 24 points, and Schemberger totaled six points and a career-high 19 rebounds against the Timberwolves.

The LSSU men were 1-3 during their recent road stretch and are 4-3 at home in the conference. The Lakers are sixth in the GLIAC North Division standings and trail fifth-place Northwood by a mere half game. They are only two games out of third place.

Sophomore Derek Billing, who was the Lakers’ hottest scorer at the end of last season, has averaged 26.5 ppg during his last four outings and 25.0 ppg during his last six. His season scoring average is 16.9 ppg.

“He’s been on a great run, and it couldn’t happen to a better young man,” LSSU coach Steve Hettinga stated during his weekly podcast. “He does a lot of other things that don’t show up in the boxscore. He’s a great student, and it’s been fun to watch him play.”

Six players scored in double figures for the Timberwolves, and five hit double digits for the Lakers as the LSSU men lost 86-78 at Northwood on Dec. 3. It was the most points Lake Superior State has given up to a GLIAC opponent this season.

“They’re very good offensively and defensively, and really good in transition,” Hettinga said. “It’s going to be an important part of the game. We’re going to have to get back and play great defense, and make them have to score against our set defense as opposed to making them score in the open floor, which is where they really excel.”

Senior forward Bobby Lewis (6-3) averages 16.9 ppg to lead Northwood, which ranks fourth in the GLIAC in team scoring and first in rebound margin. Sophomore center Wes Wilcox (6-8) is the Timberwolves’ top rebounder, averaging 7.1 rpg.

Both LSSU teams will participate in the GLIAC Pink Wave initiative on Saturday.