Cardinals stun top-seed Warriors to advance to GLIAC Semis

Photo Courtesy of Purdue-Northwest Athletics
Photo Courtesy of Purdue-Northwest Athletics

HAMMOND, Ind. – The Saginaw Valley State University men's basketball team jumped out to a quick start as the No. 8 seed in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament taking on the top-seeded and regular-season champion, Wayne State University Thursday in Hammond, Ind.

The Cardinals scored the first nine points of the game and led the Warriors by eight points at the break. After Wayne State took a momentary lead late in the game, SVSU retook control behind the shooting of Myles Belyeu. Late free-throws and a last-second stand on defense held off the Warrior comeback, as the Cardinals advanced with a 76-74 win.

The victory moves SVSU (5-11) on to the GLAIC Postseason Tournament semifinals, where No. 5 seed Ashland waits for a Friday afternoon showdown.

The SVSU defense stifled Wayne State in the first half, as the Warriors were held to just 13 points in the first 14 minutes of play, helping the Cardinals build a double-digit advantage. The Warriors cut the deficit to just two late in the first half, but three 3-pointers for SVSU, including a buzzer-beater from Delano Smith stretched the advantage out to 36-28 at the break.

Wayne State rallied again, tying the score at 45-45, and took a brief one-point lead with 7:25 left on the clock. After an SVSU timeout, the Cardinals regrouped with a 7-0 run to move back in front and a Belyeu jumper with 1:29 to go put made it an eight-point lead.

"This team has been playing really well all year," SVSU Head Coach Randy Baruth said. "We are taking the same shots now that we have been, but they are just going in. It's always good as a team to be able to answer a team's run with one of your own."

After four straight made free throws by James Toohey, the Warriors twiddled the SVSU lead to one with 12 seconds remaining. Smith split a pair at the line, giving Wayne State a last-second chance, but the Cardinal defense stood tall, forcing a turnover to secure the win.

Belyeu led the way for SVSU with 35 points on 14-of-26 shooting, hitting four 3-pointers and adding five rebounds.

"We came out ready to play," Belyeu said. "We learned from what went wrong during the regular season and it taught us what we can do during the postseason. It's always nice to see that ball go through and it was great that my teammates trusted me to take those shots in big situations tonight." 

Smith recorded 16 points, six rebounds, and four assists, while Darnell Hoskins Jr., added 12 points.

The Cardinals shot 27-fo-58 from the field, 9-of-16 from deep, and 13-of-22 at the line, finishing with eight assists, five steals, and nine turnovers.

Brailen Neely led the Warriors with 28 points on 10-of-15 shooting.

The Cardinals take on Ashland in the GLIAC Tournament Semifinals at 5 pm EST on Thursday in Hammond, Ind., with the winner earning a spot in the GLIAC title game.