Coming up short

Missed free throws cost FSU men’s basketball in loss to Huskies

BIG RAPIDS — With all of the variables that factor into a basketball team picking up a victory, missing free throws is a hard way to lose a basketball game, especially when it’s a 10th-consecutive loss.

Free throws, the only shot in basketball that is uncontested every time, cost the Ferris State men’s basketball team a win on Thursday night as the Bulldogs fell to the visiting Michigan Tech Huskies, 78-72. The Bulldogs shot 11-for-21 from the charity stripe, missing 10 freebies in an eight-point loss.

PRESSURE: Ferris State’s Dietrich Lever (left) tries to sneak a pass around Michigan Tech’s Ben Stelzer during Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) men’s basketball action at Jim Wink Arena on Thursday. The Bulldogs dropped a 78-72 decision to the Huskies to push their losing streak to 10 games. (Pioneer Photo/Daine PavloskI)

PRESSURE: Ferris State’s Dietrich Lever (left) tries to sneak a pass around Michigan Tech’s Ben Stelzer during Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) men’s basketball action at Jim Wink Arena on Thursday. The Bulldogs dropped a 78-72 decision to the Huskies to push their losing streak to 10 games. (Pioneer Photo/Daine PavloskI)

“Again, our free throw shooting hurt us,” Ferris State men’s coach Andy Bronkema said. “(Michigan Tech) could’ve stepped up and made the special plays that they made, and we still would’ve won if we made some free throws. It’s been our achilles heel in other games and I just have to help our guys be better at it and I haven’t located how yet, but I won’t quit or sleep until I can.”

The Bulldogs sprinted out of the gate, running out to an 8-0 run on the Huskies on back-to-back triples from Jibreel Jackson and a bucket from Jared Stolicker. Michigan Tech woke up a few minutes later, getting 3-pointers from Ben Stelzer that eventually tied things up at 14-14 with 10:30 left in the first half.

“I thought Stelzer made some big plays (Thursday),” Bronkema said. “If you watch enough basketball, two teams that are playing pretty even in energy, all it takes is somebody to step up and make some special plays and he did all night.”

The treys continued to rain for each side, with Michigan Tech knocking down nine triples in the first half as the Bulldogs dialed up six from long range in the first 20 minutes. Both sides traded buckets and leads all the way through the opening half. Drew Lehman hit a triple to give his Bulldogs a 29-28 lead with under five to play. As time continued to tick down Ferris State held a slim lead, but a 3-pointer from Jordan Chartier as the shot clock expired gave the Huskies a 35-34 lead going into halftime.

The second half brought more of the same as the Bulldogs and Huskies were digging in for a GLIAC dogfight. The lead alternated throughout the second half and 11 times throughout the game. The Bulldogs took an early lead in the second half, but Tech kept fighting back. Dietrich Lever led the charge for the Bulldogs, leading a run that was capped with his layup to give the Bulldogs a sudden 54-45 lead.

The Huskies fought back once again, getting a trey and layup from Jason Hawke to make it 54-50 with just under 11 minutes to play. Two minutes later it was 56-53 with the Bulldogs still on top as Josh Fleming cashed in a three to give the Bulldogs a six-point edge. The lead was quickly brought down to two points and back-to-back 3-pointers for the Huskies gave the lead back to the visitors with under four to play.

With just 1:26 left in the game the Bulldogs were down 69-66 as Stelzer knocked down one of his five 3-pointers to push the lead to six for the Huskies. Ferris State was forced to foul down the stretch and the Huskies, who hit 16 free throws in the second half, secured a 78-72 GLIAC win on the road.

“We need to play just as hard and make a few more plays down the stretch and we’ll grab a win. I’m real proud of the guys (Thursday),” Bronkema said. “I’m disappointed that we didn’t win, but very excited about the guys on the floor and how they played. I thought our bigs stood up pretty good. They played hard and with good intensity. Overall, the guys that stepped on the floor, I’m proud. Their effort was acceptable.”

The Bulldogs relied on a balanced attack on offense again with four players in double-digits. Lever led the team with 17 while Fleming and Lehman both chipped in 16 and Stolicker added 10. The Huskies had just two starters in double-digits but had 29 points off the bench while the Bulldogs got just five from their reserves.

Ferris State falls to 6-12 overall and 5-9 in GLIAC play as this loss marks its 10th in a row.

The Bulldogs have another shot to end the losing streak on Saturday against Northern Michigan with tipoff set for 3 p.m.

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