Big Rapids, Mich. - The Ferris State University men's basketball team put together a much-improved performance on Thursday (Feb. 6) night and battled highly-regarded Michigan Tech to the wire before falling short 78-72 in Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) play inside FSU's Jim Wink Arena.
In a game that was tied eight times and featured 11 lead changes, Michigan Tech finally prevailed down the stretch to move to 15-5 overall and 11-5 in the GLIAC. The Huskies narrowly outscored FSU 43-38 in the final half.
Ferris State jumped in front early and led by nine points only five minutes into the game before the Huskies battled back. Both teams shot the ball extremely well in the first half with FSU shooting a blistering 61.9% and MTU hitting only 54.5% of its first half tries.
After the Huskies had clawed back to grab a one-point lead, the Bulldogs started quickly in the second half and surged in front. FSU still held a one-point advantage with three minutes to go in the game, but the Huskies responded with a 7-0 run to take a 72-66 lead on a three-pointer from junior guard Ben Stelzer with 40 seconds left to play.
From there, the Huskies managed to sink six free throws in the final 29 seconds to secure the victory.
Stelzer carried Michigan Tech to the win as he finished with a game-high 24 points and made five three-pointers while hitting seven-of-13 shots from the floor. His performance from the outside helped MTU sink 12-of-27 (44.4%) long range tries for the night.
After shooting nearly 62% from the floor in the opening frame, the Bulldogs slightly cooled off to 46.4% in the final half and finished with a 53.1% figure for the night. FSU was nine-of-17 (52.9%) from the outside, but only three-of-10 (30%) in the final 20 minutes of action.
While shooting well overall, Frris State struggled from the free throw stripe as the Bulldogs connected on only 11-of-21 (52.4%) tries in comparison with MTU's 18-of-22 (81.8%) showing.
Michigan Tech made 50% of its shots in the final half to finish shooting at a 52.2% clip for the game.
In addition to Stelzer's 24 points, the Huskies received 11 points each from Jordan Chartier and Austin Armga along with 10 off the bench from Jason Hawke. Senior guard Alex Culy added eight points for MTU.
The Bulldogs shutdown Armga most of the night as the league's top scorer at over 23 points per game was held scoreless in the first half and didn't reach the scoreboard until less than 15 minutes remained in the game.
Offensively, the Bulldogs received a team-best 17 points from junior guard Dietrich Lever, who added eight assists while playing all 40 minutes. Fellow junior guard Drew Lehman played 38 minutes and scored 16 points while also dishing out eight helpers.
The Bulldogs also received 16 points from sophomore forward Josh Fleming with fellow sophomore Jared Stolicker contributing 10 points and a squad-high eight rebounds.
FSU also managed to take care of the ball with only six turnovers in the game while finishing with 19 assists. Along with eight from Lever and Lehman, the Bulldogs received three assists from sophomore guard Jibreel Jackson, who hit two early three-pointers to lift FSU early and finished with eight points.
MTU slightly outrebounded FSU 27-26, but Ferris State outscored the Huskies 13-8 in second chance production with seven offensive boards to five for the Huskies. FSU had three blocked shots and three steals with Michigan Tech netting two steals and a single block to go with eight turnovers.
The Huskies owned a decisive 29-5 margin in bench scoring as Ferris State shortened the rotation and played only eight players in the game. The starting five each played 27 minutes or more.
Ferris State will next host Northern Michigan on Saturday (Feb. 8) in a 3 p.m. (ET) league tilt inside FSU's Jim Wink Arena as the Bulldogs welcome former head coach Bill Sall and his Wildcats to town for the first time.
Saturday's contest will be part of a tripleheader between FSU and NMU inside the Ewigleben Sports Complex with the women's basketball teams meeting prior to the men's game and both schools squaring off against each other later than evening in men's ice hockey action across the concourse.