Big Rapids, Mich. - An impressive second half of play before a loud and noisy crowd of youngsters lifted the Ferris State University men's basketball team to its seventh-straight victory as the Bulldogs remained unbeaten in Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) play with a 82-67 triumph on Tuesday (Dec. 16) afternoon inside Jim Wink Arena.
The Bulldogs trailed by as many as eight points in the first half, but responded by outscoring the Dragons 44-28 over the final 20 minutes to improve to 7-2 overall and a perfect 4-0 in conference play.
The afternoon game was played before a large crowd of nearly 1,500 fans, which included children from across Big Rapids as part of a "Kids Day" event.
"It was a great crowd and wonderful to have so many kids in the building," said FSU head coach Andy Bronkema. "We got off to a slow start, but played well down the stretch. We're getting contributions from guys coming in off the bench and continuing to improve on a daily basis."
The Dragons held a one-point lead at halftime, 39-38, before Ferris State quickly moved in front in the second frame. FSU took a nine-point lead only six minutes into the second as the Bulldogs outscored Tiffin 18-8 to start the period.
From there, Ferris State continued to push the advantage and took a 15-point lead with four minutes to go. After a timeout, FSU exploded for three-straight scores that included a pair of steals off the press to build a 21-point lead and put the game out of reach with just under three minutes remaining.
The win came on the heels of a record-setting performance versus Ohio Dominican on Sunday (Dec. 14) in which FSU set an all-time GLIAC record for largest victory margin at 69 points in a 115-46 rout of the Panthers.
While Tuesday's victory was much closer most of the way, the Bulldogs did the necessary things to pull out their fourth consecutive win to open conference action. FSU had only six turnovers on the day and shot 50% from the floor versus the Dragons, including a 55.9% figure in the second half.
Overall, the Bulldogs hit 31-of-62 field goals and sank seven-of-18 (38.9%) three's while converting 13-of-18 (72.2%) free throws in their final game at home until the New Year.
Although FSU was outrebounded 40-34 for the afternoon, the Bulldogs recorded a 22-5 margin in points off turnovers aided by only having the six miscues in the contest compared to 14 on the Tiffin side. It also helped lead to a 19-4 edge in fast break scoring.
Junior forward Josh Fleming had a big day for the Bulldogs with a game-high tying 18 points and seven rebounds in 33 minutes of work. He hit eight-of-12 shots from the floor, including a pair of critical three-pointers in the first half as FSU stayed within striking distance of the Dragons.
In addition to Fleming, FSU received 15 points from senior guard Drew Lehman in addition to 14 points and six assists from fellow senior guard Dietrich Lever. Junior forward James Chappell chipped in with 10 points and added four blocked shots and three steals in the victory.
The Dragons finished shooting at a 42.9% clip, but were held to only 29.2% at seven-of-24 in the second half as FSU turned up the defensive pressure. They made five-of-15 (33.3%) three's and connected on 14-of-23 (60.9%) free throws.
The duo of Ashton Khan and Khaleal McCormick combined for 36 of Tiffin's 67 points as each totaled 18 points in the contest. However, a majority of their points came in the first half as Khan had 15 of his 18 points and McCormick netted 11 of his 18 points in the opening frame.
The Bulldogs registered 11 steals and eight blocked shots in the game compared to only three steals and blocks each by the Dragons. Along with Chappell's four blocks and three steals, FSU got two blocks off the bench from junior forward Dan Chilcote and two steals each from Lever and junior guard Jibreel Jackson.
In addition to six assists from Lever, FSU also received five helpers from Jackson and two apiece from Lehman, junior center Jared Stolicker and freshman Noah King en route to 18 total assists on the afternoon. TU finished with nine assists, including three from Mike Brown in reserve.
Ferris State also outscored a taller Tiffin lineup 36-32 in the paint in a game that featured seven lead changes.
With the victory, Ferris State improved to 5-0 at home this year and the Bullogs have now won 10-straight matchups against the Dragons. FSU's current seven-game win streak overall is the Bulldogs' longest since winning 12-straight during the 2010-11 season when the Bulldogs reached the NCAA Division II Sweet Sixteen.
The Bulldogs, who are ranked seventh in this week's NCAA-II Midwest Regional Media Poll, will continue a busy week as they hit the road for a pair of games this weekend. FSU first visits regional foe St. Joseph's (Ind.) for a rescheduled evening game on Friday (Dec. 19) starting at 8:30 p.m. (ET) in Rensselaer, Ind. The Bulldogs then visit NCAA Division I Bowling Green on Sunday (Dec. 21) for their final game prior to the holiday break with tipoff set for 1 p.m. (ET) in Bowling Green, Ohio.
All of this weekend's action can be heard live on Sunny 97.3 FM and the Bulldog Sports Network online at FerrisStateBulldogs.com starting with the Meijer Pregame Show a half-hour prior to tipoff.
Big Second Half Before Large Crowd Lifts Ferris State To Seventh-Straight Win
|Tiffin (3-6, 0-4 GLIAC)||39||28||67|
|Ferris State (7-2, 4-0 GLIAC)||38||44||82|