Cullen Maksimowski, LSSULakers.com
SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich.— The No.18-ranked Lake Superior State men's basketball team is set for a heavyweight battle this weekend as they play host to No.5 Ferris State on Saturday (3 p.m.) in a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Conference tilt inside Bud Cooper Gymnasium.
The Lakers are out to a 9-1 start this season (4-0 in the GLIAC) and are on a six-game winning streak entering Saturday's matchup. The Bulldogs are a perfect 10-0, 4-0 to open the season.
"It's a great challenge for us playing a top five team in the country," said Lake Superior coach Steve Hettinga. "They've been the top team in our conference the last couple years and we're looking forward to playing them at home.
"We know how good they are and how explosive they can be. When you play these types of games early, it can give you a good water mark as to where your team is and we're looking forward seeing where we're at."
LSSU and FSU come into play owning the two best scoring offenses and defenses in the GLIAC. The Bulldogs lead the league averaging 83.9 points per game while allowing just 64.8 point. The Lakers are averaging 83.1 points per game while surrendering 67.9.
"They're very deep and very athletic," Hettinga said. "They're well coached and do a lot of things very well. They'll try to speed you up and are exemplary in transition and have a lot guys that can really shoot the basketball. When you look for weaknesses on their team, they're hard to find."
One of the marque matchups of the afternoon will take place at the point guard position where LSSU's Akaemji Williams will go head-to-head against FSU's Drew Cushingberry.
Willams, a senior guard from Pontiac Mich., leads the Lakers and ranks third in the conference averaging 18.1 points per game. Cushingberry, a Romeo native, leads the Bulldogs and ranks seventh in the league at 16.4 points per game.
"It's exciting and I think both players get up for each other because they've been playing against each other since early in high school," said Hettinga. "They've been rivals for 6 or 7 years now so it's not a new thing for them."
Senior forward Michael Nicholson leads the Lakers in rebounding this season at 7.8 per contest. Offensively, Nicholson is averaging 12.7 points per game and his 69.7 field goal percentage ranks No.5 nationally.
Zach Hankins leads FSU and is third in the GLIAC in rebounding at 8.3 per game. Hankins is second on the team in scoring averaging 12.8 per contest.
Lake State split its regular season meetings with Ferris State last year losing at home 111-113 (Jan.12) and winning on the road 83-79 (Feb.9). The Bulldogs went on to Capture the GLIAC title and advance to the regional semifinals in the NCAA Tournament.
"It's a lot of the same (this year)," said Hettinga. "Both of us have a lot of the same players back and we're both playing a very similar style. I think the similarities between our teams are pretty eye opening honestly.
"They're obviously off to their best start in school history. We're just excited for the matchup and usually when we play them the team that plays better that night will win and I think that will be the case again on Saturday so hopefully that team is us."
After Saturday's matchup, the Lakers will take a break from GLIAC competition as they welcome Algoma (Ontario) on Dec.18 at 5 p.m.
Tickets are available at the Norris Center Ticket Office or online at lssulakers.com. All kids 13 and under now get in free at all home LSSU basketball events. For additional information call the ticket office at 906-635-2602.
No.18 Lakers Host No.5 Ferris State in GLIAC Showdown