Men’s basketball takes road in Ferris rematch

Ray Bressette

Head coach Bill Sall returns to Ferris State University this weekend as the Wildcats will have the opportunity to sweep Sall’s former team.

The ’Cats dropped two games at Berry Events Center over the weekend, losing to the Lake Superior State Lakers, 77-58, on Thursday, Jan. 30, and then losing to the Northwood University Timberwolves, 76-71, on Saturday, Feb. 1. Junior guard Ethan Blackwell scored a career-high 23 points against Northwood.

NMU got stuck in a losing streak with a loss to the Michigan Tech Huskies, 69-58, on Monday, Feb. 3 in Houghton. The Wildcats were within three points at the half as they trailed 32-29, but a 7-0 run for MTU to start the second half gave the Huskies the lead for the rest of the game. Blackwell, sophomore guard Terry Nash and junior forward Chavis Mattison each scored 13 points.

The ’Cats will hit the road to take on the Grand Valley State Lakers at 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 6 in Allendale, Mich. Grand Valley sits in third place in the North Division of the GLIAC. The Lakers have lost three of their last five contests and come off a 69-64 loss to Wayne State in overtime Saturday, Feb. 1 at home.

In the most recent contest the Lakers defeated the Wildcats, 64-41, Thursday, Jan. 16 at Berry Events Center. They held the ’Cats to 32.7 percent from the floor.

Sall said the team will need to concentrate on playing cleaner to close-out games.

“We’re really resilient,” Sall said. “When you play good teams, it always comes down to crucial moments where you can’t afford to make mistakes. If we’re going to get over that hump from rebuilding to actually winning games, we have to do a way better job with what has to happen in crucial steps of the game.”

The Wildcats take on Ferris State at 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8 at Jim Wink Arena in Big Rapids, Mich. The game will be Sall’s first return to Ferris since leaving the program for NMU last off-season. Sall coached the Bulldogs to four GLIAC North Division Championships and three NCAA Division II Tournament appearances in his 11-year tenure from 2002-13.

Sall said he looks forward to his return to Ferris this weekend.

“It’s going to be interesting going back there,” Sall said. “Returning to your old court, seeing a lot of familiar faces and good friends; it’s going to be something special.”

The ’Cats beat Ferris, 61-59, Saturday, Jan. 18 at home. Mattison converted a game-winning rebound in the final seconds of the game to give the Wildcats the win.

“It was fun the first time we played them,” Sall said. “We caught them by surprise and they’ll certainly be looking to return the favor. We’re going to have to be ready to go from the start to beat them again.”

The Bulldogs are riding an eight-game losing streak, sitting at 5-8 in the GLIAC and 6-11 overall. Ferris lost their last contest, 79-62, to Wayne State Thursday, Jan. 30 in Detroit. Ferris’ last game, scheduled against Saginaw Valley on Saturday, Feb. 1, was canceled due to a campus lockdown.

Nash said the Wildcats want to put together some wins this weekend for both the team and fans.

“Obviously our record isn’t that good, but we come to practice every day to get better,” Nash said. “We just want to go out there and show our fans and our teammates that we’re out there for each other, and we’re going to keep working hard no matter what the result is.”