Ferris State survives against Findlay, advances in GLIAC tourney

BIG RAPIDS — “Survive and advance” is a popular mantra around this time of year in college basketball, and it served the Ferris State women’s basketball team well on Wednesday.

The Bulldogs (21-5) survived Findlay’s best shot during the first round of the GLIAC tournament, coming away with a 68-61 win at Jim Wink Arena. The Bulldogs advance to take on Tiffin on Saturday in Ashland, Ohio.

In what was a tight game throughout, Ferris State was able to turn on its defense in the second half, limiting the Oilers to 28 percent shooting after hitting 44 percent of its shots in the first half.

“We tried to sit down and make it harder for them,” FSU coach Tracey Dorow said. “We switched on some screens, but we did a pretty good job of talking and not allowing them to set good screens. We moved well and kept our hands higher and a lot more active.”

INSIDE PRESENCE: Ferris State's Christina Branch goes up for a shot inside against Findlay on Wednesday. (Pioneer photo/Martin Slagter)

In their first appearance in the GLIAC tournament since 2008-09, the Bulldogs came out a bit tentative, while the Oilers had the hot hand early.

Findlay built a 13-7 lead following a Kayla Brown triple. Ferris State began to find some offense, with Hannah Hoffman hitting a jumper as the shot clock expired off an inbound play to tie the game at 16-16 with 10:59 remaining.

The lead shifted back and forth throughout the first half, with Findlay taking a 30-29 lead into halftime.

The second half saw the Bulldogs turn up the intensity on the defensive end, limiting the Oilers to just eight field goals in the final 20 minutes of action.

Findlay wouldn’t go away, however, taking a 43-42 lead following a triple by Brown with 12:35 left to go. Ferris State went on a small run, capped off by a jumper by Sarah DeShone to make it 52-45 with 9:03 remaining.

“I felt like at one point we got a bunch of stops and rebounds and then we transitioned to get some easy buckets,” Dorow said. “It seemed like on the next possession they’d hit a three or get a bucket at the other end. That’s how it’s going to be in tournament time. Every team you’re playing against is going to be good.”

DeShone, who finished with team-high 16 points, said the offense began to have success getting the ball inside in the second half, opening things up for the Bulldogs’ shooters on the perimeter. Ferris State shot 56 percent in the second half.

“We were trying to move the ball more and focus on getting the ball inside,” she said. “When we got the ball inside they collapsed in and allowed us to get easy shots outside.”

A jumper by Findlay’s Clare Aubry cut FSU’s lead to 55-54 with 4:37 remaining, but the Bulldogs’ Nikki Arner provided a huge putback and a free throw to build the lead back up to 58-54 on the following possession.

Arner said the Bulldog post players stayed patient and began to demand the ball inside more in the second half. Arner finished with 14 points and six rebounds in the win.

“Our stance was different in the second half, after standing up straight in the first half,” she said. “No guard is going to throw the ball in to someone that’s standing up straight and not coming to the ball. The post did a good job of sitting down in the second half and coming toward the ball.”

Down the stretch, FSU was able to convert on enough free throws and make key defensive stops to put the game away.

Dorow said she was impressed by how her team responded to playing in the tournament format.

“These kids have done a good job of maturing and growing up fast,” she said. “We’ve got some sophomores and even freshmen that have maintained their composure. Our seniors have also done a good job of providing leadership out there.”

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