FSU tops Northwood in Sutherlin’s absence

BIG RAPIDS – Ferris State’s men’s basketball team came into Valentine’s Day looking to mend a broken heart.

The Bulldogs had just lost senior big man Daniel Sutherlin for the season on Wednesday with a broken ankle, leaving them searching for leadership and physical play in the post against Northwood.

Thursday’s 83-71 win over Northwood should help the Bulldogs (13-9, 12-6 GLIAC) begin the healing process.

Jared Stolicker had 18 points and six rebounds starting in place of Sutherlin, while Kenny Brown added 20 points and Dietrich Lever facilitated a fast -paced offense with 19 points and seven assists.

GOING UP: Ferris State’s Jibreel Jackson goes up for a lay-up against Northwood on Thursday. (Pioneer photo/Martin Slagter)

“Obviously it’s heartbreaking with Danny (Sutherlin) being out for the season with a broken ankle,” FSU coach Bill Sall said. “It’s tough to have your senior go down like that and Danny was playing so well for us.

“That’s why you have a basketball team,” he added. “I thought Josh Fleming and Raymoan McAfee played exceptionally well and obviously (Jared) Stolicker stepped up for us.”

Trailing 22-20 with about six minutes remaining in the half, the Bulldogs closed out the frame on a torrid 21-4 run with a variety of fast break lay-ups, jumpers and finishes in the paint.

McAfee tied the game up at 22-22 with 5:30 left in the half. McAfee provided life off the bench along with Fleming as FSU finished with 15 points from its reserves.

Back-to-back 3-pointers by Brown and JFleming gave FSU a 29-22 lead, while Lever dazzled the crowd with a reverse lay-up to make it 32-22 with 3:22 left in the half.

After the Bulldog defense made another stop, FSU got out in transition with Jibreel Jackson finishing at the rack. Stolicker then cleaned up a Lever miss to give FSU 16 unanswered points and a 36-22 lead.

Lever brought the crowd to its feet with 52 seconds left in the half to make it 41-24. FSU finished the half shooting 56.7 percent while causing nine Northwood turnovers.

“From an effort standpoint, from that 10-minute mark to the end of the half, we really got after it,” Sall said. “We played exceptionally hard and I think we scored seven straight times coming down at one point.”

Lever said it was FSU’s defense that keyed the run, which allowed the Bulldogs to get out on transition.

“We lost the first game (to Northwood) so we knew we had to get them back,” he said. “We were just hitting shots. We like to get out and run, but we have to get stops to run, so we did a good job of rebounding and getting out.”

Sall said Lever has been emerging as both a bigger scoring presence and as a floor leader for FSU in recent weeks.

“That’s three games in a row that he’s really played well and playing with confidence,” he said. “He’s seeing shots but he’s also finding players that are open in spots. I thought he made some outstanding plays and that’s what you want to see from your point guard.”

Northwood came out pushing the ball to start the second half, cutting the lead to 41-34 after a pair of dunks by Darvin Ham.

Ferris State would counter, however, getting a number of easy baskets in transition off of defensive stops while causing turnovers.

Brown hit a 3-pointer to make it 44-34 and later added three lay-ups over a three minute stretch – the last an acrobatic finish with a foul to build the lead back up to 57-40. Stolicker added a 15-footer on the next possession to make it 59-40 with under 12 minutes to go.

Sall said Stolicker stepped up in Sutherlin’s absence, but the big man also was motivated by his performance against the Timberwolves earlier this season.

“The last time we played (Northwood), Will Bowles really took it to him,” he said. “We said ‘tonight you’ve got to be our Will Bowles.’ That’s what he did – he was a better player (Thursday).”

Stolicker credited the defense for the win in Sutherlin’s absence.

“It was all about our defense – our defense translated into easy buckets,” he said. “We had guys step up everywhere. I think it was all about getting stops, getting out into transition and finishing.”

The win was FSU’s ninth straight at Jim Wink Arena, where the Bulldogs will host Lake Superior State at noon on Saturday.

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