Bulldogs defense too much for Huskies in 85-66 win

Ferris State’s Zach Hankins (35) tries to keep the ball away from the Michigan Tech defense. (Pioneer photo/John Raffel)

BIG RAPIDS — Ferris State’s men’s basketball team had been ranked as high as seventh in the country in recent NCAA Division II polls.

But the main focus now on the Bulldogs is keeping pace with the other teams on top of the standings in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

Ferris entered Thursday’s home game with Michigan Tech tied for first in the league and remains at the top following an 85-66 win over the Huskies at Wink Arena.

The Bulldog defense was especially effective with 11 steals compared to three by Tech. Ferris only had six turnovers while the Huskies were guilty of 20.

“I thought we shot really well,” Ferris coach Andy Bronkema said. “(Tech) still shot good percentages. That’s what they do best. They’re hard to guard.”

Ferris (7-1, 17-1) shot 14-of-32 from the floor for 43.8 percent while the Huskies (7-8, 4-4) were 11-of-25 for 44 percent the first half, which ended in a 36-27 Bulldog lead.

The Bulldogs fired out to a 6-0 lead and were up 19-6 on a Zach Hankins dunk. But Michigan Tech continued to hang around and trailed 31-25 at one stage after Bryan Heath netted a 3-pointer. Drew Cushingberry had a reverse-side layup and 3-pointer to put Ferris back in charge.

Noah King opened the second half with a pair of 3-pointers and 42-29 lead.

Peter Firlik’s shot from the corner made it 42-29 with 16:59 to play. A Hankins baseliner gave Ferris a 55-34 lead at 11:40. The Bulldog defense continued to frustrate the Huskies as the Ferris lead exceeded 20 points. DeShaun Thrower’s 3-pointer at 6:30 made it 72-49.

“Some of it was our pressure and some was them losing focus,” Bronkema said. “I thought we were focused a majority of the game. I was pleased with them. We had been playing in stretches. We can have the skills but if they’re not thinking right, it doesn’t matter.”

The Bulldogs shot 18-of-32 in the second half and 32-of-64 overall for 50 percent.

“We came in with the mentality we had to start strong in the first half,” Firlik said. “We’ve played bad in the first half lately and we wanted to get off to a good start against a good Michigan Tech team. They’ve been struggling but we knew how powerful they are and can be so we wanted to get out early.”

Zach Hankins had 14 points and five rebounds while Thrower came off the bench for 13 points and Noah King and Markese Mayfield had 12 apiece.

Dawson Bilski had 11 points for MTU.

“We had a good game plan against the leading scorer in the conference Kyle Monroe and we did a good job on him,” Firlik said. “We held him way below his average.”

Monroe only had seven points.

Ferris is home on Saturday against Northern Michigan with a 1 p.m. tipoff. Northern Michigan is coached by former Ferris skipper Bill Sall.

“We just do what we do,” Bronkema said. “We’ll play as hard as we can and do what humans do, try to enjoy it and play as hard as we can. We don’t have a secret formula.”

Former Ferris men’s coach Tom Ludwig and his players will be recognized on Saturday at Wink Arena.

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Posted by John Raffel

John is a sports reporter with the Pioneer as well as the Herald Review and The Lake County Star. He also coordinates the weekly Pioneer sports outdoors page. He can be reached at (231) 592-8356 or by email at jraffel@pioneergroup.com.

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