Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. - The Ferris State University men's basketball team battled back from a 17-point second half deficit and nearly pulled off an improbable comeback in a close 89-86 setback to nationally 20th-ranked Lake Superior State on Saturday (Feb. 15) afternoon in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.
The Lakers, who lead the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) and are among the region's top teams, built a 43-29 halftime lead after shooting nearly 52% from the floor in the first frame.
The lead grew to 17 points early in the second period, but Ferris State rallied back and eventually pulled back within two points on a layup from sophomore forward Josh Fleming with less than 20 seconds to play.
However, with just under 14 seconds to go, the Bulldogs were called for an intentional foul and Lake Superior State hit four free throws the rest of the way to secure the win.
FSU outscored the league-leading Lakers by a 57-46 count in the second half while shooting 63.6% over the final 20 minutes of action. Overall, Ferris State hit 55% of its field goal tries for the game and was nine-of-15 (60%) from three-point range.
Meanwhile, Lake Superior State shot 49.1% overall and was eight-of-20 (40%) beyond the arc. They held a decided edge at the free throw line as LSSU finished 25-of-34 (73.5%) compared to FSU's 11-of-23 (47.8%) figure.
Fleming fueled the Bulldog comeback and finished with 20 points for the day with senior forward Raymoan McAfee netting a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. He also added four steals, including several big ones late in the game as the Bulldogs pressured the basketball in the full-court set, and added a pair of blocked shots in 27 minutes of action.
Ferris State also received 16 points from sophomore guard Jibreel Jackson, who sank three treys and dished out six assists. Both junior guards Drew Lehman and Dietrich Lever added 12 points each with Lever also distributing six helpers.
LSSU was led by the inside-outside senior combination of Cameron Metz and Derek Billing, who both finished with 19 points apiece. Alex Williams sparked the Lakers early and totaled 18 points while Jake Blake posted a double-double of his own with 12 points and 14 boards.
Ferris State was outrebounded by the Lakers 40-29 and LSSU grabbed 12 offensive boards to eight for FSU.
The Bulldogs did force 17 Laker turnovers and came away with six steals and five blocked shots while turning the ball over only eight times on the day. LSSU had five thefts and two swats in the contest with Ferris State posting 19 assists to 17 for the Lakers.
The contest was the second matchup between the two teams decided by five points or less as LSSU previously recorded a 75-70 win in Big Rapids in the initial matchup in late January.
With the victory, Lake Superior State improved to 24-3 overall and 16-3 in the GLIAC while FSU fell to 7-15 overall and 6-12 in conference play.
Ferris State returns home to host Wayne State on Thursday (Feb. 20) at Wink Arena with tipoff set for 8 p.m. (ET) in Big Rapids.