Ferris State men’s basketball looks to keep winning streak going after victory against D-I Bowling Green St.

BIG RAPIDS — The month of December has been very kind to the Ferris State men’s basketball team.

After finishing off the month of November with a three-game winning streak, the Bulldogs have won all six of their scheduled contests this month to push their winning streak to nine games.

The Bulldogs capped off the month with one of the biggest wins in recent memory by taking down Division I Bowling Green State, 82-68, on Sunday to give the program its first victory over a Division I team since the Bulldogs topped Oakland (Mich.) in 2000.

LOOKING FOR AN OUTLET: Ferris State’s Dietrich Lever (left) looks for an open teammate to pass to during a game earlier this season. The Bulldogs are currently in the midst of a nine-game winning streak after a 82-68 victory in exhibition play over Division-I Bowling Green State on Sunday. (Pioneer file photo)

LOOKING FOR AN OUTLET: Ferris State’s Dietrich Lever (left) looks for an open teammate to pass to during a game earlier this season. The Bulldogs are currently in the midst of a nine-game winning streak after a 82-68 victory in exhibition play over Division-I Bowling Green State on Sunday. (Pioneer file photo)

Sunday’s contest was an exhibition match for Ferris State, but it counted as a regular-season contest for a Falcon team that came in with a 6-2 overall record and now the Bulldogs are understandably heading into the holiday break with some growing confidence.

“We’re feeling pretty good about where we’re at right now,” FSU head coach Andy Bronkema said. “There’s usually one Division II team that beats a Division I team a year, but it’s something that doesn’t happen very often.”

The game was also a homecoming for senior guard and Toledo native Drew Lehman, who Bronkema said had close to 60 people among his family and friends make the drive to see him score a game-high 29 points.

Lehman is one of several holdovers from last season’s squad that struggled to a 10-16 overall record and 9-13 mark in Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) play, with the 2013-14 team only graduating one senior.

While this year’s team sports a roster featuring many of the same players, Bronkema, who’s in his second year as the head coach, said there are several reasons why he thinks the Bulldogs have been able to get on a run through the early portion of the season.

“I think the main thing is we have pretty good players and they’ve been making the plays to help us win,” he said. “That’s really all it comes down to, But I think we’re all better from the coaching staff to the players.

“Everyone has approached the season the same way by working hard and we’re all a little more in tune with each other.”

Bronkema also pointed to the return of redshirt junior forward James Chappell, who missed all but three games last season with a hamstring injury, and the contributions freshmen guards Noah King and Drew Cushingberry have provided to reason why the Bulldogs have been able to get on a roll.

Chappell is averaging 13.5 points per game, 4.7 rebounds and two steals a contest while King is averaging 8.4 points and three assists per game and Cushingberry has seen his
minutes grow to 10.9 per contest.

“We pretty much have three new faces on our team,” Bronkema said. “You have Chappell back to normal after missing last season and he’s a high-energy guy and then you have two freshmen playing significant minutes.”

Although the Bulldogs are sitting in a good position with an 8-2 overall record and unblemished 4-0 mark in GLIAC play, Bronkema said they can’t start getting too caught up in their press clippings as they get ready to return from the holiday break with a trip Findlay on Jan. 2, 2015, to begin a stretch of 18-straight conference games to end the season.

“We still talk about our two losses and how we should have lost to Albion and how we’ve never won at Findlay,” he said. “The GLIAC is full of teams that are no pushovers. It’s a battle every game.

“I would love to go undefeated the rest of the way, but the reality is someone is going to come along and beat us. The question right now is how are we going to respond when that happens? Right now, we’re flying pretty high. But we’ll see how we respond to adversity once it hits us.”

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