Big Rapids, Mich. - The nationally fourth-ranked Ferris State University men's basketball squad got off to a quick start and held off Lake Superior State in the "Fight For First" showdown between the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference's (GLIAC) top two teams as FSU recorded a 78-67 win on Sunday (Jan. 28) before a crowd of more than 2,000 fans inside FSU's Jim Wink Arena.
The Bulldogs took a two-game lead over the Lakers atop the conference standings by winning their ninth-straight game this year and avenging their only loss of the campaign. FSU, which improved to 21-1 overall, also stayed unbeaten at home with their 12th home court win of the season.
Ferris State jumped in front early and led by as many as 20 points with 2:40 to play in the first half before grabbing a 39-21 lead at the break.
However, the Lakers fought their way back into the game and trimmed the margin to as low as three points, but FSU made several critical key plays and hit free throws down the stretch to pull out the triumph between the two divisional rivals on the hardwood.
Junior center Zach Hankins played like an All-American again on Sunday as he made 10-of-15 field goals to finish with a game-high 24 points while also pulling down nine rebounds and blocking five shots. FSU also got 14 points from senior forward Noah King, who went five-of-five from the line and had a seven-point possession late in the game when he converted a three-point play and made four free throws off a double technical foul assessed to LSSU.
Two other seniors also reached double-digits as guards Drew Cushingberry and Peter Firlik both contributed 10 points each. Junior forward Markese Mayfield added eight points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
Lake Superior State got a team-high 21 points from senior guard Akaemji Williams, but he had to take 21 shots, going nine-of-21 from the floor with seven assists and five turnovers against FSU's defensive pressure. Freshman Rog Stein played 31 minutes and scored 16 points in relief of starting center Michael Nicholson, who played only six minutes after leaving the game early due to an injury.
Ferris State shot 48.3% from the floor and hit 17-of-22 (77.3%) free throws while going three-of-18 (16.7%) from three-point range. However, the Bulldogs also had 18 turnovers with Lake Superior State outscoring FSU 24-8 in points off turnovers.
The Bulldogs limited LSSU to only 23.5% shooting in the initial half before the Lakers heated up to shoot 58.1% in the second frame to finish at 40% for the day. The Lakers made seven-of-17 (41.2%) three's and were eight-of-13 (61.5%) at the line.
Overall, Ferris State owned a 46-31 rebounding advantage and the Bulldogs grabbed 12 offensive boards while outscoring the Lakers 21-4 on the offensive glass.
Defensively, the Bulldogs also blocked 11 shots with seven different players notching at least one block on the afternoon. FSU had eight steals, including three from Cushingberry, who also dished out seven of FSU's 18 assists in the win.
The Lakers, who fell to 15-5 overall and 9-3 in the GLIAC, finished with 15 steals, 13 assists and one block with 11 turnovers in the contest.
The "Fight For First" was played before a crowd of more than 2,000 fans inside Wink Arena despite being delayed a full day due to Friday's closure of the Mackinac Bridge and the Lakers' bus trouble on Saturday. Ferris State moved to 11-1 in the GLIAC with the victory.
The Bulldogs will continue their three-game homestand on Thursday (Feb. 1) night as FSU hosts Northwood in GLIAC play starting at 5:30 p.m. (ET). FSU will then host Saginaw Valley State on Saturday (Feb. 3) in a 1 p.m. (ET) conference tilt in Big Rapids before playing four-straight road games.