The No. 15 Grand Valley State Lakers earned a 33-point, wire-to-wire 94-61 victory over the No. 1-nationally ranked Ashland Eagles inside the friendly confines of GVSU Fieldhouse Arena on Thursday, Dec. 6 to take sole possession of the GLIAC South. The victory pushes the Lakers to 7-1 overall and 3-0 in conference action while Ashland falls to 7-1 overall and 2-1 in league play.
It is the first time in program history that the Lakers have knocked off the top-ranked team. The loss not only snaps the Eagles 30-game road winning streak but also their 69-game regular season winning streak. It is also the first conference loss since the 2015-16 season and spanned 48 league games.
Despite the Eagles coming in with the second highest scoring offense in the nation (98.6 ppg), the Laker defense wasn't fazed, holding the Eagles to 24-of-60 from the field, including 10-of-25 from three. More importantly, the Lakers sent the Eagles to the free throw line just four times, where they managed just three points. On the other side, GVSU forced 19 Eagle fouls and hit 13-of-19 from the charity stripe.
Another key in the Laker victory was winning the turnover battle. Ashland came into the contest as the No. 1 team in the country in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.84) but managed just 13 assists compared to 19 turnovers forced by the Lakers. GVSU made sure to capitalize on those miscues as well, generating 23 points on Eagle errors. Much like the rest of the season, GVSU dominated in the paint, outscoring AU 38-12 down low while outrebounding them 37-30. The Laker bench also generated 17 points compared to Ashland's 15.
Junior guard Jenn DeBoer turned in a career-game after dropping 32 points, four assists, three rebounds, and two steals. After somewhat struggling from beyond the arc prior to tonight's contest, the Byron Center, Mich. native went 6-for-11 (55%) from deep, constantly keeping the momentum in GVSU's favor with big shot after big shot. Junior center Cassidy Boensch had herself a game as well, posting her fifth straight double-double with 19 points (6-of-9 FG, 7-of-9 FT) and 16 rebounds while also rejecting two shots and accounting for four assists.
Redshirt junior guard Victoria Hedemark played an efficient 34 minutes after posting 14 points (6-of-8 FG, 2-of-2 3PT), four steals, three assists, and two rebounds. GVSU's lone senior in Natalie Koenig added 12 points herself, knocking down 4-of-7 from deep, while also adding two steals and three assists.
The Lakers gained the momentum early inside of a boisterous GVSU Fieldhouse Arena, scoring the first nine points of the game. A pair of Hedemark layups sandwiched a Boensch layup in the first 1:03 of play to give GVSU the early 6-0 lead before an and-1 layup a trip later gave the GVSU the 9-0 lead with 7:24 left. A three-pointer from AU's Sara Loomis got the Eagles on the board but a quick lay-in and triple from DeBoer gave the Lakers an 11-point lead, 14-3, with just over four minutes gone. The Lakers eventually built that lead to 15 with 3:11 to go after another DeBoer three before eventually taking a 14-point margin into the second quarter, 24-10.
The second quarter was much more competitive as the Lakers would narrowly outscore the Eagles (23-20). The Eagles came out firing from deep to start, draining their first three tries to cut the lead to nine, 28-19, with 7:22 to go. Just when it looked like the No. 1 team would get back into it, the Lakers used an 8-2 run to go up 15, 36-21. The teams would trade buckets over the next few minutes before yet another three from DeBoer would put the Lakers up 19, 47-28, before a last-second jumper before the half by the Eagles would bring the score to 47-30.
The Eagle defense came out of the break and put the pressure on the Lakers, forcing a couple of turnovers early and denying any clean looks but GVSU would quickly compose themselves and get their offense humming. A Hedemark three with 2:07 left gave the Lakers their biggest lead of the night at 26, 63-37. AU would hold GVSU scoreless over the final two minutes however and pulled within 20, 63-43, heading into the final quarter.
GVSU's defense made sure there was no comeback attempt early in the fourth quarter, holding the Eagles to just six points in the first four and a half minutes while pouring in 12 themselves for the 75-49 lead. GVSU continued to hit their shots down the stretch, eventually earning the 33-point victory, 94-61.
The Lakers will be back in action this Saturday (Dec. 8) as they are scheduled to host the Wayne State Warriors inside GVSU Fieldhouse Arena at 6:00 PM.