BIG RAPIDS, Mich. – Riley Thomas scored a season-high 29 points and Garrick Sims logged a double-double, but Lake Erie lost, 73-70, at Ferris State on Thursday.
In a game that marked the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference opener for both squads, the Bulldogs (1-3, 1-0 GLIAC) hung on late despite a persistent charge by the Storm (3-4, 0-1) in the final five minutes. LEC has now lost four straight since opening the 2013-14 campaign with three straight wins.
Thomas scored 25 of his 29 points in the game's first half. Sims registered the Storm's first twin double of the season with a 14-point, 12-rebound night.
Turnovers fed an early 19-10 lead for the Bulldogs. Lake Erie went just 4-for-its-first-13 from the field, and junior guard Drew Lehman scored a quick seven points for the Bulldogs.
Ferris State led by nine (23-14) at the nine-minute mark. Then Riley Thomas keyed a huge run for the visitors: Thomas hit multiple buckets in a 16-4 run that catapulted the Storm into the lead. That stretch sent the Green & White into their locker room with a 37-31 halftime lead.
Thomas' 25 first-half points were largely produced from distance – he dialed up no less than five treys in the opening 20 minutes. Lake Erie outshot FSU, 44 percent to 34 percent, in that first frame. LEC's 32 points were scored by just three players – Thomas, Garrick Sims (seven points) and Michael Morris (five).
The second half was a defensive affair for long stretches at a time. Ferris State took a one-point lead (42-41) at 14:03. Only four field goals would be scored over the next six minutes of play, and by the eight-minute mark, the Storm found themselves down, 51-49.
A neutralized Riley Thomas was held to just one bucket over the first 18 minutes of the second half, but Sims provided a lift to the LEC offense at key points of the second half. The Storm tied things up, 65-65, at the 1:44-mark, but then the Bulldogs scored two on their next possession. FSU then got a free throw and then a big 3-pointer to pull ahead by six.
A Sims free throw and a Tom Parker layup cut the FSU lead to three (71-68) with 14 seconds remaining. After two missed Bulldog free throws, Parker scored another two-point basket, but time ran out before the Storm could have one last look at a potential game-tying basket after FSU hit two free throws.
LEC shot 38 percent (26-of-68) for the game, and the Storm was outscored, 18-11, at the free-throw line despite the Bulldogs shooting just 58 percent (18-of-31) on their uncontested 15-footers. FSU out-rebounded Lake Erie, 46-38.
Thomas scored his 29 points on an 11-of-20 shooting performance. He went 5-of-8 from beyond the 3-point arc.
Matt Poches led Ferris State with 21 points. Jared Stolicker added 15 points and 11 boards.
Thursday's game marked the front end of a Western Michigan double for the Storm. Lake Erie will be at Grand Valley State on Saturday (2 p.m. tip-off).