Ferris men open NCAA tournament victorious

Bulldogs edge Ashland by a point on Saturday

Ferris' Solomon Oraegbu goes. to the basket against Ashland on Saturday in NCAA Division II regional tournament action

Ferris' Solomon Oraegbu goes. to the basket against Ashland on Saturday in NCAA Division II regional tournament action

Ferris sports/Courtesy photo

BIG RAPIDS – With scoring leader Solomon Oraegbu back in the lineup, the Ferris State University men's basketball squad earned an NCAA Division II Tournament victory on Saturday 71-70 win over Ashland at Nicoson Hall in Indianapolis.

With the win, the Bulldogs advanced to the NCAA D2 Midwest Region Semifinals for the second consecutive year on Sunday (March 12) night at 5 p.m. in Indy. (See bigrapidsnews.com for more details.)

The Bulldogs had an 17-point lead late in the first half and held on down the stretch for the win, beating Ashland for the second time this year.

“It’s a young team which has been through a long season. I’m proud of them. It’s a big win,” Ferris coach Andy Bronkema said. “Winning in the national tournament is big time and I’m proud of them. But they can still learn from this game and it can help us in the second round.”

Oraegbu, who was absent in Ferris’ loss to Northern Michigan in a GLIAC tournament game on March 4, with no reason provided by the university, led the Bulldogs with a game-high 30 points in the win, which included a 10-of-13 effort from the free throw line.

He was joined in double-digits by Dolapo Olayinka with 11 points and Reece Hazelton, who scored 10 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in a double-double performance.

Ferris State converted 17-of-22 (77.3 percent) free throws in the win, including several critical ones in the closing minute to preserve the victory.

The Bulldogs won the rebounding battle 43-33 and pulled down 15 offensive caroms. FSU also outscored the Eagles 10-1 on the break and the Bulldog bench tallied 39 points to only 11 for the AU reserves.

“In the second half, we couldn’t get any stops, maybe it was my fault for not switching up the defenses,” Bronkema said. “I thought we had a game plan and I would stick with it. But (Ashland) made a lot of plays and shot a high percentage in the second half. But we hung in there and made the plays we needed to. We overcame some plays that were just weird.”

Ferris State improved to 24-8 overall this season.

“This will take awhile to digest but we don’t have a little while,” Bronkema said. “We have to turn around and play another great team. It’s tournament basketball with a lot of twists and turns.”
This year's trip to the NCAA Tournament represents the Bulldogs' 16th in school history and the seventh in the past nine seasons.

“We have to move on quickly,” Bronkema said. “We have to keep learning too. Ashland runs a zone and they switch to man later on the clock. Even though we’re prepared. It’s still tricky. We missed a couple of open looks against them. All of a sudden it’s in our heads and we try doing something different than what we normally do.”

Several FSU players gained tournament experience last year

“As young as we are in our roles, it doesn’t help,” Bronkema said. “There’s a little expectation. With expectations, you drown in them or rise up. Today they rose up. I couldn’t be happier. We just battled. I’m happy these guys came to play on the biggest stage. It was great.”

Ferris State Athletics contributed to this report.