For the first time in five years, the Ferris men’s basketball team will not play in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament final.
Tuesday, March 5, in front of 960 fans inside Jim Wink Arena, the fourth seeded Bulldogs, now 20-12, dropped their GLIAC quarterfinal game against the fifth seeded Northern Michigan University (NMU) Wildcats with a score of 89-73. This marked the third matchup between both teams this season, as the Bulldogs were previously 2-0 during the regular season against NMU, but Tuesday brought the score to 2-1.
“It is tough, we came out hard, but they came out harder. It is difficult to beat a team three times,” Ferris sophomore wing Jaylin McFadden said. “We knew that coming in and I felt like they played harder than us. We could not overcome that in the second half, but as a team we stayed together. Proud of my team, proud of the season we had. They came out ready, I feel like the other two games they came out more lax and I just feel like we switched roles today. We came out lax and they came out ready.”
Ferris was able to get the first five points of the game to take a 5-0 lead and eventually extended the lead to 8-2, which would be the only lead the Bulldogs had for the entire game. The Wildcats went on a 15-1 run that gave them a 17-9 lead that they would never lose. The score headed into halftime was 41-30.
One of the difference makers between the two teams in the quarterfinal matchup was the total number of rebounds by each team, as Ferris was outrebounded 43-29 during the game.
“The key was rebounding in the first half. They outrebounded us by nine and that was the game right there,” Ferris men’s basketball head coach Andy Bronkema said. “They crushed us on the glass which is just something that they wanted way more than us, and that is hard to swallow, but when you get beat up that bad on the glass. They were plus 14 on the glass so, I mean, in a big game that just comes down to who wants it more and they wanted it more.”
In the second half, the Bulldog went down at one point by 26 points, the biggest deficit of the game. The second half score was closer than the first half score, as Ferris scored 43 points while Northern tacked on 48, to make the final score 89-73.
The Bulldogs were four-in-a-row defending champs of the GLIAC tournament, but with the Bulldogs out in the first round of the tournament, it was a good representation of how tight and competitive the conference was this season.
“It was a lot different, usually there is kind of a main leader,” Ferris junior post Cole Walker said. “This year, the GLIAC has kind of been all over the place like people in first but everybody is in the same spot, all fighting for the same position.”
This will most likely be the last game of the season for the Bulldogs, as they were ranked seventh in the Midwest Region before they dropped their last two games. Only the top eight teams advance to the tournament and with those two final losses being in-region losses, the chances are not high for the Bulldogs.
Following their first ever Division II National Championship the season previous, the Bulldogs seemed to begin their season with a “championship hangover” as they started out 5-5, which is average, but very different from the year before when Ferris only lost one game.
The slow start could have been due to the fact that Ferris senior point guard DeShaun Thrower was still playing well into the football postseason, where he helped the Ferris football team make it to the football national championship. Once Thrower came back, Ferris went on to go 9-2 in the next 11 games where they got back on track, right where they used to be.
After that 9-2 run, the Bulldogs ended the season with a 4-5 record in their last nine games
played, to end the season with a record of 20-12.
“We had some really good moments, we had some pretty bad moments,” Walker said. “We really showed what we could have been or could be.”
The Bulldogs will find out whether they advance to the NCAA Division II tournament during the Selection Sunday show 10:30 p.m. Sunday, March 10.
“NCAA tournament bid would be big,” McFadden said. “But from here we had ups and downs, but all around I am proud of this season; I am proud of the family we built here, the games we lost the games we won, we took them all as lessons, so I am proud of that.”