Energized Bulldogs Register Win Despite Keenan's Loss

Ferris' Justin Keenan tries to score against the Cardinals (Photo/Zeke Jennings)

The Ferris State University men's basketball squad rallied around each other when the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference's (GLIAC) leading scorer left the contest in the second half and fought back for a 80-69 league home triumph over Saginaw Valley State on Thursday (Feb. 19) evening inside FSU's Jim Wink Arena at Big Rapids, Mich.

The Bulldogs, who trailed by as many as 10 points late in the first half, held a slim 56-55 advantage when sophomore forward/center Justin Keenan was injured with 12:44 remaining in the "Pink Wave Night" contest.

Although Keenan never returned to the game and his status remains in doubt, the Bulldogs went on a 18-4 run over the next eight minutes to take control of the game and improve to 13-11 overall and 11-8 in the GLIAC.

During the critical stretch, Ferris held the Cardinals scoreless for more than seven minutes and received scoring from six different players as the lead jumped to 74-59 with 4:12 left in the game. FSU then sank six free throws in the final two minutes to secure the victory.

The Bulldogs' Darien Gay holds onto the ball versus SVSU on Thursday night (Photo/Sandy Gholston)

Junior guard Josh Young paced the Bulldogs with a game-high 20 points in the contest. He also added six rebounds and three assists in 33 minutes of action. Young scored nine-straight Bulldog points in the final 1:40 of the opening half to help cut a 10-point Cardinal lead down to a single point at intermission.

In addition to Young's offensive output, the Bulldogs also received 11 points from both sophomore guard Darien Gay and junior forward Verdell Billingsley. Gay added nine assists and freshman guard Dontae Molden dished out six assists with five steals and four points.

Keenan, who had been averaging a league-high 21 points this season, totaled eight points and eight rebounds in 19 minutes before leaving the game.

With Keenan out of the lineup, the Bulldogs relied heavily on both Billingsley and senior forward Jason Holder on the boards. Billingsley came up with eight rebounds and Holder nearly had a double-double effort as he ripped down 10 boards to go with nine points. Ferris owned a 44-33 rebounding edge for the game and tallied 17 offensive boards compared to only 11 for the visitors.

Ferris converted 30-of-68 (44.1%) field goal tries and was nine-of-20 (45%) behind the three-point line for the game. FSU also sank 11-of-14 (78.6%) free throws.

The Cardinals had four players reach double-figure scoring as Avery Stephenson totaled 18 points and three players had 12 points apiece in Adam Gries, Dante Williams and Greg Foster. However, the Bulldogs did limit SVSU to only 35.5% shooting in the final half as the Cardinals finished shooting 42.6% (26-61) for the night.

Saginaw Valley State, which dropped to 7-16 overall and 7-12 in league play, made six-of-22 (27.3%) three-pointers and was also 11-of-14 (78.6%) at the line.

Defensively, the Bulldogs forced 15 turnovers and came up with seven steals. FSU also held a slight 11-6 edge in points off turnovers and a 16-12 margin in second chance scoring.

FSU posted 20 assists and a single block while the Cardinals came up with 13 assists, five steals and two blocked shots.

The Bulldogs remain tied with Hillsdale for fourth place in the GLIAC standings with three games left in the regular-season. The top four teams at the end of the year will earn a quarterfinal-round home game for the GLIAC Postseason Tournament on Tuesday, March 3.

Ferris will host the Lake Superior State Lakers in its regular-season home finale on Saturday (Feb. 21) with the league tipoff beginning at 3 p.m. (EST) inside Wink Arena. The Bulldogs will honor both Holder and fellow senior forward Mark Gildersleeve in the "Senior Day" event prior to the contest.