With a win on Saturday, SVSU evened its GLIAC record to 5-5. More importantly, the Cardinals showed that they could win away from home.
After losing their sixth straight regular season away game to Ashland Thursday, the Cardinals defeated Lake Erie in Ohio Saturday, 68-51.
“We thought that we had played badly against Ashland, and we wanted to regroup and reprove ourselves,” head coach Frankie Smith said. “I was very happy with our overall team play.”
SVSU has now won five of its last six games and sits at 9-8 overall. Lake Erie drops to 7-9 overall, 2-7 in the GLIAC.
With only nine games remaining in the season, the Cardinals are sitting in ninth place out of 14 teams in the GLIAC. The two teams directly ahead of them, Grand Valley State and Northwood, made up one-third of the Cardinals’ remaining schedule.
“Obviously I wish we were at the top, but I feel good about the way we’re playing now,” Smith said.
The top eight teams at the end of the regular season qualify for the conference tournament. Last year, SVSU snuck in as the eighth seed and lost to the overall number one seed, Ferris State.
After being held to only 52 points on 27-percent shooting against Ashland, SVSU rebounded by scoring 68 points against Lake Erie and shooting 46 percent from the field.
This is only the second game this season the team has won when scoring less than 70 points.
Senior guard Greg Foster and junior guard Brett Beland shared the lead in scoring for SVSU with 16 points each, while junior guard Chris Webb added 15. Foster also added 9 rebounds, six assists and two steals.
Beland scored nine of his 16 points on the night at the free-throw stripe. The 6-foot-1 junior now leads the GLIAC in free-throw percentage, making 93.2 percent from the line this year.
The Cardinals jumped out to a quick lead over Lake Erie, going up 18-4 after a 3-pointer by George Goodman, a freshman from Buena Vista High School in Saginaw. The Meijer “Player of the Game” on Thursday, Goodman has played in 16 games for SVSU this season, shooting 33.3 percent from beyond the arc.
Lake Erie fought its way back into the game, and after cutting SVSU’s lead to 10 at the break, scored the first eight points of the second half to trail 29-27.
“They made a little run, and I called a timeout and jumped the guys a little bit,” Smith said. “I just said. ‘Hey now, let’s not fall into some bad habits.’
“We were able to stay disciplined on defense and get some good shots.”
The Cardinals responded with a layup by junior forward Eli Redman and a 3-pointer by Brett Beland to stretch their lead to seven.
Lake Erie cut the lead to four with 13:48 remaining, but SVSU scored the next ten straight and never let the Storm back into the contest.
Junior guard Michael Fugate played 17 minutes for the Cardinals, his second longest outing since injuring his tailbone in a Jan. 5 loss to Grand Valley.
Brett Beland has averaged 7.7 points per game starting in Fugate’s absence.
With six of SVSU’s last nine games on the road, Smith knows that his team will have to adjust away from home as well as win its remaining games at the Ryder Center in to order to put itself in a favorable position for the tournament.
“We’ve got a couple of big games this week with Tiffin and Ohio Dominican coming in here,” Smith said. “We have to win all of our home games.”
The Cardinals are back in action Thursday, Jan. 26, when they host Tiffin at 8 p.m. The team will also play at 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28, against Ohio Dominican.