Their fourth victory against a Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference opponent this season was not to be as the Hope men's basketball team fell to Wisconsin-Stevens Point, 74-72, on Saturday night in front of a DeVos Fieldhouse crowd of 2631.
And the free throw line proved to be the Flying Dutchmen's nemesis in the defeat.
The loss puts the Flying Dutchmen at 5-2 for the season. Stevens Point moves to 4-2 on the year.
Hope, ranked 12th in the nation by D3Hoops, had recorded three previous wins against WIAC teams this year – Wisconsin-Stout (70-50), Wisconsin-River Falls (90-81), and Wisconsin-LaCrosse (80-75). But in their two-point loss to Stevens Point. Hope shot just 62.1 percent (18-29) from the free throw line.
"Our issue was we didn't make enough free throws, just plain and simple," said Hope head coach Greg Mitchell. "We had some opportunities to put some more pressure on them late in the game (with them) on the road like that. We didn't get the lead, and they were allowed to be more comfortable."
In a game that saw the score tied eight times and the lead change nine times, a 3-point shot by Hope's Chad Carlson evened the scoreboard one last time at 72-72 with 9.2 seconds to go. On their return trip down the floor though, Stevens Point's Mark Nelson buried a 15-foot, pull-up jumper with 1.1 seconds left. Hope could not convert on their ensuing in-bound play.
"Playing in a game like this, even though we lost, is a huge building experience for us," added Carlson. "We'll take a lot out of this and this will propel our season forward."
Senior Harrison Blackledge of Canton, Ohio (Hoover HS) led Hope scoring and rebounding with 17 points and six rebounds. Carlson, of Rockford, Michigan (Rockford HS), tallied 15 points on five three-pointers.
Off the bench, senior Keith Brushwyler of St. Joseph, Michigan (Stevensville- Lakeshore HS) matched his season-high with 10 points. Hope totaled 25 bench points to the Pointers' 12.
The Flying Dutchmen were outrebounded by Stevens Points, 31-27, though the Flying Dutchmen committed fewer turnovers, 12-16. Hope shot 46 percent from the field for the game while the Pointers shot 48.1 percent.
It was Hope's second home loss this season. The Flying Dutchmen, however, have an impressive all-time record of 146-21 (87 percent) in DeVos Fieldhouse.
Hope will be in action next after exam week when they host the Russ DeVette/Holland Sentinel Classic on Monday and Tuesday, December 19-20. The Flying Dutchmen will face Spalding University (Kentucky) the first night of the tournament and Johnson and Wales (RI) the second night. Tipoff both nights is at 8:00 pm.