Keenan Leads FSU Past Defending Champs!

The Bulldogs beat Findlay on Saturday at Wink Arena (Photo by Sandy Gholston)
The Bulldogs beat Findlay on Saturday at Wink Arena (Photo by Sandy Gholston)

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

Big Rapids, Mich. - A career day from one of the league's best helped the Ferris State University men's basketball team topple the defending NCAA Division II National Champions in the University of Findlay on Saturday (Feb. 6) afternoon as the Bulldogs pulled out an exciting 86-77 triumph at Jim Wink Arena.

FSU snapped a 10-game series regular-season losing streak to the Oilers behind a personal career-high 35 points from junior forward/center Justin Keenan for its first win over Findlay since a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) Tournament semifinal victory during the 2005-06 campaign in Allendale, Mich.

The win, which ended Findlay's five-game overall series' streak, was also Ferris' first against the Oilers in the current Wink Arena as the Bulldogs had dropped all five previous tilts versus Findlay in the 11-year old facility. The triumph was only FSU's second victory in the series' during the last 45 years as the 2005-06 win had been its first over Findlay since 1964.

Keenan's 35-point effort surpassed his previous high of 33 points against Olivet last season. He connected on 13-of-19 field goal tries and was nine-of-12 at the free throw line as the Bulldogs won the "Community Health Day" contest before a crowd of 750 excited fans and avenged an earlier 90-62 loss to the Oilers this season (Dec. 12) at Findlay, Ohio.

In addition to his 35 points, Keenan also added seven rebounds, three assists and three steals in the FSU win.

"They didn't double me the first time we played down there and I didn't take advantage of it," Keenan said.  "The guys gave me confidence in letting me take the shot if someone was guarding me one-on-one today, so I was a lot more comfortable this game in just playing and scoring."

He was joined in double-figures by senior guard Austin Randel with 16 points, junior guard Matt DeHart with 12 points and junior guard Darien Gay, who compiled 10 points.

"I'm really proud of how we all played because we played with emotion and passion," said FSU head coach Bill Sall.  "If we play like that, we have the ability to play for a long time this season."

The Bulldogs took a slim 40-39 halftime advantage as Keenan netted 20 points in the initial frame and DeHart scored all 12 of his points in the first half with the duo combining for 32 of FSU's 40 points at the break.

Ferris stretched the lead to as many as 10 points with 15:47 remaining, but the nationally 19th-ranked Oilers didn't go away. They cut the deficit all the way down to one point with 3:25 left on a thunderous dunk from freshman Aaron Robinson. However, FSU scored the next seven points on a bucket and two free throws from Keenan along with a three-pointer from Gay to put the game out of reach. FSU also forced back-to-back Oiler turnovers in the stretch.

Overall, the Bulldogs shot 50% (30-50) from the field for the game, including a 68% (17-25) showing in the first half. FSU made eight-of-16 (50%) triples with Randel sinking four three-pointers in the contest. Ferris was also 18-of-22 (81.8%) at the free throw line.

The Oilers kept the game close throughout behind the play of Robinson and talented junior guard Nathan Hyde. They each scored 21 points and senior guard Marcus Parker added 11 points, eight assists and three steals. Tyler Sparks also reached double-digits with 12 points.

"Our defense was way better today and that was huge," Sall said.  "It's hard to rank them, but hopefully when you get a good win like this and everyone contributes, we can feed off of that."

The lead changed hands seven times in the game, but the Oilers never led by more than two points which came on the first basket of the contest only 29 seconds into play.

Findlay made 28-of-60 (46.7%) field goals and seven-of-21 (33.3%) three-pointers with a 14-of-16 (87.5%) effort at the stripe.

With Keenan controlling the inside, the Bulldogs held a 42-34 edge in points scored inside the paint and a 15-10 margin in fast break scoring. However, the Oilers did manage to net 19 points off 18 Bulldog turnovers compared to only 10 points for Ferris on 15 Findlay miscues.

FSU distributed the ball well as the Bulldogs tallied 24 assists with sophomore guard Dontae Molden netting six assists. Gay had five helpers and DeHart added four for the Bulldogs. Ferris also garnered six steals and had five blocked shots.

"The team is getting the ball to me when I'm down there and they are also doing a great job of moving when I do get it," Keenan said.

Findlay recorded 17 assists and 10 steals. They were outrebounded 28-25, but did grab 10 offensive boards.

The win was FSU's seventh in its last eight contests this campaign as the Bulldogs upped their record to 13-8 overall and 11-5 in conference action. The Oilers, who had a 13-game winning streak snapped in a loss at Grand Valley State on Thursday (Feb. 4) night, dropped to 16-5 overall and 12-4 in the GLIAC with their second-straight setback.

The Bulldogs wrapped up a four-game conference homestand with the victory and will now play four consecutive league contests on the road. FSU ventures to Michigan's Upper Peninsula next week for two games at Michigan Tech (Feb. 11) and Northern Michigan (Feb. 13). Thursday's contest at MTU begins at 7:30 p.m. (EST).