After a win over Lewis (Ill.) on Nov. 20 propelled the Bulldogs to a 3-0 start and helped them break into the top 25 in Division II, the team received a reality-check with two losses over the holiday weekend.
Ferris, which broke into the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Division II Top 25 Poll at 24th in the first regular season poll, couldn’t overcome the competition at the Owensboro Classic in Owensboro, Ky., as it lost both of its contests over the weekend.
“Basketball is a funny game,” said Ferris head coach Bill Sall. “You always want to improve and we had a chance to test ourselves against some of the best at our level and we didn’t come out on top.”
The Bulldogs opened the tournament against the Drury (Mo.) Panthers on Friday. The Panthers took control right off the bat in the contest, as Ferris scored the first basket only to never lead again in the game as Drury came out on top, 88-72.
Ferris trailed only 38-34 at the half, despite senior forward/center Justin Keenan missing most of the first half after racking up two quick fouls in the first half, but the Panthers held strong and kept the Bulldogs at bay to close out the victory.
Keenan paced the Ferris effort with 19 points and four rebounds while sophomore guard Kenny Brown chipped in 16 points and a steal.
Despite notching the first loss of the season, the Bulldogs had a chance to bounce back in the final game of the tournament against nationally 16th-ranked host Kentucky Wesleyan on Saturday.
Ferris jumped out to a five-point lead to begin the contest, but Kentucky Wesleyan took a 42-34 lead into the half. The Bulldogs battled back in the second half to cut the lead to 67-61 with 4:50 left in the game, but it wasn’t enough as they eventually lost 85-73. The Bulldogs had their troubles shooting in the contest, as they shot only 41.7 percent shooting for the contest and made only six of 23 three-point attempts for the night.
Senior guard Darien Gay paced Ferris with 25 points and four assists and Keenan chipped in 20 points and seven rebounds. Gay and Keenan were both named to the All-Classic Team for the tournament.
The Bulldogs will return home to Big Rapids to begin GLIAC conference play with a tilt against Tiffin on Thursday before closing out the two-game homestand with a matchup against Ohio Dominican on Saturday.
“It’s huge for us to come out and start out strong in the GLIAC,” said Sall. “Our goal for this year is to win the GLIAC North and we can’t afford to get off to a slow start if we’re going to meet that goal.” n