Contribution by Cody Carlson
Ferris State Bulldogs.com
Big Rapids, Mich.- An improbable comeback helped visiting Hillsdale force overtime, but in the end the nationally 22nd-ranked Ferris State University men's basketball squad was too much to overcome as the Bulldogs pulled out an 85-78 overtime win on Thursday (Jan. 29) night inside FSU's Jim Wink Arena.
The Bulldogs, who were coming off their first league loss of the year, held onto a share of first place in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) North Division standings to setup a first-place showdown against Saginaw Valley State by pulling out the win.
FSU led by as many as 10 points with 11:04 to play in regulation and still held a 10-point edge with two minutes to go, but Hillsdale scored the final 10 points to force the extra session. In overtime, though, the Bulldogs outscored HC 20-13 to record the victory.
Despite the Chargers shooting over 60% in the first half, Ferris State still managed to take a 34-31 lead into the half. FSU was aided by 14 Hillsdale turnovers in the opening half that resulted in 15 points for the Bulldogs.
In the second half, FSU pushed its lead to nine points with 17:39 to go before the Chargers climbed back within four points on two different occasions with slightly under 10 minutes left in the game.
FSU's lead grew back to 10 points and the Bulldogs held a 65-55 lead with two minutes to play after senior guard Dietrich Lever knocked down a pair of free throws.
From there, though, the tide turned in Hillsdale's favor in a short span. After cutting the FSU lead to 65-61 on a three-pointer from Zach Miller and a three-point play from standout scorer Kyle Cooper, the Chargers took advantage of missed free throws on the Bulldog side. The Bulldogs missed three free throws in the final 1:37 of the contest and the final two gave the Chargers the ball with a chance to chip yet further into the FSU lead.
Not only did Hillsdale score, but the Chargers tied the game up as Stedman Lowry connected on a three-point shot and was fouled with 33 seconds to go. His free throw tied the contest up and a turnover by FSU on the inbounds play gave Hillsdale a crack at coming up with the game-winner. However, Cooper was called for traveling with slightly more than two seconds to play and neither team could convert on potential long game-winning plays in the final two seconds of regulation.
In the extra session, Ferris State struck first. A Cooper layup with 3:20 left gave Hillsdale a 70-69 edge, but from there FSU scored six-straight points to take control with three layups and three stops on the defensive end. The Bulldogs then managed to hit six free throws in the final minute and junior center Jared Stolicker threw down a monster dunk from a Drew Lehman feed to put a stamp on the victory. Lehman and Stolicker both scored eight in the extra session to lead the way.
The Bulldogs' experience in close games helped FSU pull out the triumph.
"Everyone has a better idea of what to do in crunch time," said Stolicker. "We have lost close games like this in the past and we have learned from those setbacks, which has helped us this season."
FSU finished the game shooting 49.2% from the field and connected on seven-of-22 (31.8%) three-point attempts. The Bulldogs made 18-of-29 (62.1%) free throw attempts.
Meanwhile, the Chargers shot 51.6% from the field and netted eight-of-25 (32%) from downtown. They converted 6-of-7 (85.7%) from the stripe.
Lehman once again led the Bulldogs in scoring with 23 points and added seven assists and seven boards. Stolicker also had a big night by scoring eight of his 19 in the extra session. He also had four boards and dished out four assists with a pair of blocked shots.
Junior forward James Chappell also reached double-figures with 14 points while junior forward Josh Fleming chipped in 11 points to round out FSU's double-figure scorers.
On the other side, Cooper paced Hillsdale with 21 points and added a game-high14 rebounds. Lowry also had a big night with 20 points and connected on 5-of-7 three-point attempts. Nick Archer added 13 points off the bench while point guard Zach Miller dished out an impressive 16 assists.
The Chargers outrebounded the Bulldogs 40-30 for the game and grabbed seven offensive boards to FSU's six, which gave them a 13-7 advantage in second chance production.
Turnovers played a big role, though, in the Bulldogs' victory as they forced 20 on the night and scored 19 points off of the Chargers' miscues. The Bulldogs recorded 10 steals and also blocked five shots on the defensive end. Lever led the squad with three steals and added eight points and five assists on the night.
Along with his 14 points, FSU also received five rebounds, five assists, three blocks and a steal from Chappell in 31 minutes of work. Ferris State had 10 turnovers and outscored HC 19-7 in points off miscues.
In a game that featured 16 lead changes and was tied five times, it was the balanced play in overtime that gave the Bulldogs only their second victory over the Chargers in the last 11 meetings.
Five different FSU players tallied two assists or more as both teams netted 23 helpers on the night with 16 of Hillsdale's 23 coming from Miller. The Chargers' bench outscored Ferris State's 22-10 for the night and HC also produced 46 points in the paint to 40 for the Bulldogs.
With the win, Ferris State improved to 16-3 overall and 12-1 in the GLIAC. Hillsdale dropped to 9-8 overall and 7-6 in GLIAC action with the setback. The two teams will meet again on Feb. 19 in Hillsdale. FSU also moved to 9-1 overall inside Wink Arena this season with the victory, which came before more than 1,100 fans in attendance.
Ferris State will square off against fellow GLIAC leader Saginaw Valley State on Saturday (Jan. 31) in University Center, Mich. Tipoff is set for 3 p.m. (ET) for the first-place battle with both teams owning identical overall and league marks on the year. The game can be heard live on Sunny 97.3 FM and the Bulldog Sports Network.
Saturday's game continues a busy stretch for Ferris State as the Bulldogs will then head to Allendale on Monday (Feb. 2) night to face archrival Grand Valley State before returning to Wink Arena to face Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan next Thursday and Saturday (Feb. 5 & 7), respectively.