Bulldogs upset Oilers

FSU men’s basketball team defeats 12th-ranked team in D-II, 85-81

BIG RAPIDS — The Ferris State mens basketball team picked up a 85-81 GLIAC victory at home on Thursday to upset the 12th-ranked Findlay Oilers.

POSSESSION: (ABOVE) Ferris State’s Jibreel Jackson (4) surveys the defense with a Findlay defender guarding him during GLIAC men’s basketball action at Jim Wink Arena on Thursday. The Bulldogs upset the 12th-ranked Oilers, 85-81, in their first game back from holiday break.

POSSESSION: (ABOVE) Ferris State’s Jibreel Jackson (4) surveys the defense with a Findlay defender guarding him during GLIAC men’s basketball action at Jim Wink Arena on Thursday. The Bulldogs upset the 12th-ranked Oilers, 85-81, in their first game back from holiday break. (Pioneer Photo/Daine Pavloski)

The Oilers came into the game ranked highly in the Division II polls, but to Ferris State head coach Andy Bronkema, the ranking is no big deal.

“All of our wins mean the same thing,” Bronkema said. “It doesn’t matter what teams are ranked, all of our wins count for the same. I’m awful proud that we beat them, but now we’ll do what we always do; we’ll shoot for one more win. Then, if we get that, we’ll shoot for one more and so on.”

The Bulldogs got things going right off the opening tip with a Dietrich Lever layup to take an early lead. After an Oiler basket, Jared Stolicker took to the air and got a soaring putback above the rim to keep the Bulldogs on top in the early going. The Bulldogs kept things going all the way out to a 10-2 lead just two minutes into the contest. Then the Oilers showed why they are ranked in the nation.

The Oilers fought back to make it 12-12 with 15 minutes to play in the first half and a layup from John Staley gave them their first lead of the night. Both squads would trade leads back and forth throughout the opening stanza until Findlay started to pull away. Two Oiler threes found the bottom of the net to push the lead to five points. A few more buckets made the lead 12 points and the Bulldogs were struggling to contain the Oiler offense.

With under four minutes to play in the opening half, the Bulldogs found life. A three from Matt Stoll brought the deficit back to single digits and a couple of free throws made it 37-30 as the Bulldogs fought back. An emphatic block from Raymoan McAfee inspired the Bulldogs as Matt Poches took over, scoring seven unanswered points, leading the Bulldogs to a 39-39 tie at half time.

“Our game plan was the same it is every night,” Bronkema said. “We want to do everything as well as we can and keep it as simple as we can. (Thursday) was no different. At the end of the first half, we just told our kids to get back to what we try to do. When we get out of our box and our way of playing, we struggle. The coaches and I just reminded our kids who they were and we made plays.”

The Bulldogs kept the momentum in the second half with a huge block from Stolicker. Both teams struggled to put points on the board with no scoring until 17:30 after McAfee made a free throw to give Ferris State a 40-39 lead. As the offense opened up the score stayed close all the way down to the seven-minute mark. Findlay got a few buckets to fall, taking a slight 56-52 lead, which seemed like a 20-point lead with how rare scoring had become. The Bulldogs were able to keep pace and finally pulled within two points at 60-58. Lever had a chance to tie things up but was chased down and blocked from behind but his teammate Stolicker made a similar block at the other end to keep the lead at two.

With three minutes to go the Oilers fell into a 1-3-1 zone to mess with the Bulldogs, but they weren’t phased as Jibreel Jackson knocked down a triple to make the lead just one point. Findlay would push the lead back to three but Josh Fleming hit a trey to tie things up at 74 all with 1:51 to play in the game. Both squads would trade buckets once again, each one bigger and more dramatic than the last, until Drew Lehman took over for the Bulldogs. Lehman got back-to-back layups to go down and hit free throws to give Ferris State a 79-77 lead.

From there, the Bulldogs staved off late attempts at heroics from Findlay’s Greg Kahlig who ended the night with 21 points, and were able to hold on for a 85-81 upset victory of the No. 12 team in the nation.

“Nobody on our team has beat Findlay,” Bronkema said. “This is a big win, but it’s nothing special. We have to keep picking up wins.”

The Bulldogs showed off their brand of team basketball once again with four players in double digits. Poches had 19, Lehman had 16, Fleming had 13 and Jackson dropped 12 in a team effort.

“Poches had a big game and scored points for us,” Bronkema said. “But his defense is huge too. He shut down a player of the year in Kahlig and held him right around his average for points. It was a team effort (Thursday), especially on defense.”

The Bulldogs will take the court next on Saturday at 3 p.m. against Hillsdale at Jim Wink Arena in another tough GLIAC contest.

“No one on our squad has beat Hillsdale either,” Bronkema said. “We’d rather play than practice so it’s nice turning around to another game quick, especially after the holiday. We’ll talk things over (Friday) and give it our best effort on Saturday.”

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