Cards sweep conference rivals
Last-second victories over Grand Valley, Ferris leave team at 4-1 overall
December 4, 2006 —
Martell Summers picked one hell of a time to score his only points on Saturday night.
The senior guard put back a missed Lawrence Ross layup with 3.6 seconds left as the Cardinals beat Ferris State 64-62 for their second straight impressive road win.
The victory came two days after sophomore Luke Laser beat No. 24 Grand Valley State on a buzzer-beating three pointer in Allendale, marking the first time SVSU swept the GVSU/FSU road series since the 1993-94 season. The Lakers were picked to finish first in the GLIAC North Division in the preseason coaches' poll, while the Bulldogs were picked second.
Summers' score came just seconds after the Bulldogs tied the game at 62-62. After the Cardinals turned the ball over with 21 seconds left, Ferris State's Julius Vines hit a jumper with 10 seconds on the clock to get the crowd to its feet. But Ross took the inbounds pass and drove the length of the court, getting the shot attempt off, which allowed Summers to put back the game-winning basket.
Coach Jamie Matthews was just as impressed with Ross' play as he was with Summers'.
"That was one of the best misses of (Ross') career," Matthews said. "I'm serious. He did a great job just getting a shot up."
The Cardinals did not have any timeouts when Vines tied the game, but Matthews said he wouldn't have called one anyway. He picked the same strategy in Allendale two nights before, and it resulted in another win.
"I didn't want them to get a chance to get set," he said about his decision on Thursday night.
Matthews said that Thursday night's win came from the exact same play. After the Lakers took a two-point lead with eight seconds left, sophomore Dorian Pierce drove to the lane but kicked the ball out to Laser, who won the game for SVSU. This time, it was Ross who had the ball.
A year ago, the result most likely would have been different. Last year's Cardinals would have found a way to lose the game by not making enough plays at the end, but with Ross, Pierce, and junior Chris Johnston on the floor, this year's Cardinals pulled out the win.
"On the road, you just want to keep the game close until the last three minutes," said Matthews, who explained that not many, if any, teams in the GLIAC can win by double digits away from home. "Our guys made some plays in the last couple of minutes."
Pierce hit a long three as the shot clock was winding down to tie the game at 54 with a little over five minutes remaining, and added four more points down the stretch. Ross put the Cardinals ahead by two with three and a half remaining, and Johnston, who uncharacteristically missed two free throws with about three minutes remaining, put back a missed three pointer by Ross with a minute left to give SVSU a two-point edge.
Ross finished the game with a team-high 16 points on 6-of-14 shooting, while Pierce came off the bench to add 15 on 5-of-10 shooting.
Matthews, who said before the season that he hoped to steal a couple road victories early on (the Cardinals play at Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan next weekend), explained that the two wins aided the Cardinals in what they need to be successful for the rest of the season.
"We built a bit of character with this win," he said. "We are on our way to developing an identity. I always go into a game expecting to have a shot to win. The biggest hurdle for this team is having the right amount of confidence."
The Cardinals showed that confidence midway through the second half. As they took an eight-point lead with 13:05 still to play, it looked as if the Cardinals were on their way to another upset. But the Bulldogs came roaring back, going on a 16-4 run to take a 48-44 lead with 8:15 remaining.
Last year's squad might have thrown in the proverbial white towel after blowing that type of lead, but SVSU tied it back up about a minute later. The score was tied five more times after that, and Summer made sure it wouldn't stay tied at the end of regulation.
"I like my team," Matthews said. "I'm proud of them. I'm still learning from my team, and I like what I'm learning."
Bulldogs forward Michael Daniels led all scorers with 17 points for his team, which used a balanced, athletic lineup to counter the Cardinals' similar squad. The game was physical and fast throughout its entirety, but that did not necessarily translate to a high-scoring game. Both the Bulldogs and Cardinals found ways to slow down each other's attacks.
"The biggest thing we did to slow them down was take care of the ball," said Matthews, who has emphasized that cutting down on turnovers would lead to more victories. "You cannot guard a turnover. We just try to defend, rebound, and take care of the ball, and that's what we did for the most part."
The Cardinals had 32 rebounds to the Bulldogs' 34, while they committed 15 turnovers and caused 21 by FSU. Summers had a season-high five steals as he pressured the Bulldogs' point guards throughout his 25 minutes. Sophomore Kevin Thornton led all players with six boards in 24 minutes off the bench.
The Bulldogs actually shot much better than the Cardinals, converting on 48 percent of their shots, including almost 61 percent in the second half.
SVSU shot 50 percent from the field in the second half after hitting just 32 percent in the first. The difference came behind the arc, where the Cardinals shot 7-of-20 while FSU went just 1-of-8.
The Cardinals make their aforementioned trip to the U.P. next weekend to face the two other teams that were picked ahead of them in the preseason coaches' poll. They host their second home game of the season on Wednesday, Dec. 13 against Wisconsin-Parkside.