Balanced Effort Fuels Fifth-Straight FSU Victory

FSU junior guard Matt DeHart handles the ball in Thursday's game (Photo by Sandy Gholston)
FSU junior guard Matt DeHart handles the ball in Thursday's game (Photo by Sandy Gholston)

Postgame Audio File: Bill Sall & Justin Keenan
(MP3 Version) - (Windows Media Version)

Big Rapids, Mich. - The Ferris State University men's basketball team returned home to Jim Wink Arena and opened up a four-game Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) homestand by beating Northern Michigan 82-75 on Thursday (Jan. 28) evening in Big Rapids.

The Bulldogs, who had played five consecutive league games on the road over a two-week span, won their fifth-straight game and snapped a two-game losing skid at home with the triumph before a crowd of 715 delighted fans.

FSU improved to 11-7 overall and 9-4 in conference play with the victory while NMU fell to 7-10 overall and 4-9 in the GLIAC.

Ferris took a narrow 43-39 halftime edge after battling back from a seven-point deficit only seven minutes into the contest. The Bulldogs then proceeded to outscore the Wildcats 39-36 over the final 20 minutes of the contest.

"We came out a little flat, but got a couple of sparks and came out with more energy at times," FSU head coach Bill Sall said. "We needed to take better care of the basketball, but the effort was there."

Junior forward/center Justin Keenan, the reigning two-time GLIAC North Division Player of the Week, continued his stellar play by leading five Bulldogs in double-figure scoring with 26 points and nine rebounds while sinking 14-of-15 free throws.

Keenan's offensive scoring, however, was surpassed by NMU's Marc Renelique, who kept the Wildcats in the contest for much of the way with a game-high 35 points. He had 21 points in the initial half.

"He hit some tough shots and really kept them in it," Sall said.

With Keenan racking up his points on the inside and at the free throw line, the Bulldogs' backcourt found plenty of scoring opportunities on the outside and off the dribble.

Keenan was joined in double-figure scoring by senior guard Austin Randel and junior guard Matt DeHart with 12 points each along with both senior guard Jon Yeazel and junior guard Darien Gay, who contributed 10 points apiece. DeHart was four-of-four from beyond the three-point arc as FSU shot 46.7% (7-15) from long range for the game.

The Bulldogs also received six assists from sophomore guard Dontae Molden and five assists from Gay in finishing with 17 team assists in the contest.

Besides Renelique, the Wildcats had only two other players reach double-figure scoring with Mylan Murphy netting 13 points and Chris Warner adding 11 points. The five Wildcat starters all played 26 minutes or more in the game with four of them playing at least 35 minutes in a limited rotation, helping FSU record an 18-7 advantage in points off the bench.

Ferris shot 52.8% (28-53) overall for the game and sank 19-of-21 (90.5%) free throws. The Wildcats converted 24-of-52 (46.2%) field goal tries and were seven-of-19 (36.8%) from downtown along with 20-of-28 (71.4%) at the stripe.

The back and forth contest included 12 lead changes and the score was also tied nine different times.

Overall, FSU held a 32-27 rebounding edge and came up with seven steals compared to NMU's 10 thefts. The Wildcats also had 11 assists and three blocked shots. Ferris turned the ball over 16 times and the Wildcats had 13 miscues, leading to a 20-8 NMU advantage in points off turnovers.

Ferris State continues its homestand by hosting divisional foe Michigan Tech on Saturday, Jan. 30, starting at 3 p.m. (EST) inside Wink Arena. Tickets will be available at the door for the Kids Day contest.