By Eva Dean Folkert
Cody Stuive could hardly miss. The Hope College senior forward put on a jaw-dropping show Saturday night, scoring a career and game-high 37 points — mostly on 10-of-11 shooting from behind the 3-point line —and propelling the No. 18 Flying Dutchmen to a 94-80 win over the No. 9 Washington University in St. Louis in the second round of the NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Championship at DeVos Fieldhouse.
The win gives Hope its first trip to NCAA sectional play in nine years. Hope last advanced to and through the sectionals in 2008, the year they fell in the national semifinals to, ironically, Washington University.
Hope, now 24-6, will play 24-3 Hanover College, a 64-63 winner over North Central, Illinois, next Friday. The Flying Dutchmen will host the four-team sectional at DeVos Fieldhouse.
If ever there was a breath-taking example of an athlete playing "in the zone," it was Stuive. Most of what the 6 feet, 7 inch forward shot, swatted at, rebounded or defended went his and Hope's way. The Hudsonville High School product not only led the Flying Dutchmen in scoring but also in rebounds (7), blocks (4), and steals (3).
It was a one of the most dominant Hope men's basketball performance ever witnessed by a DeVos Fieldhouse crowd, numbering 2402 and strongly Hope partisan. Stuive's 37 points tied him for the third-most by a Hope player on his home floor; his 10 three pointers tied the single-game school record with fellow senior Chad Carlson; and, he destroyed the old DeVos Fieldhouse record for the most threes in a game (the old record was seven, shared by Sam Otto in 2015 and Alex Eidson in 2016).
"This guy on my right just did not want the season to end," said Hope head coach Greg Mitchell in the post-game press conference. "We were joking with the rest of the coaches that we spent all of this time on film and preparation and, shoot, we probably should just have said, 'Give the ball to Cody and get the heck out of the way.'
Watch | Post-Game Interview
"But in all seriousness, it was a great night by Cody, a great night by Dante (Hawkins who finished with 26 points), and it was a great night by our team. The energy we played with from the opening tip was really outstanding."
"I thank God for that (game) because that's not normal," Stuive conceded. "But I'd say confidence was the key to that one. Every shot I threw up I thought was going in."
It was feeling that seemed justified. Stuive did more than his fair share of preparation leading up to this weekend's games. He estimates he practiced about 500 three-pointers this past week.
"That was just incredible to watch," Hawkins added. "It seemed like every play (Cody) was involved in somehow… And he deserves (a night like tonight) because every day I came to practice this week, he was already on the court shooting. It was just fun to watch, honestly. I felt like a fan out there."
Hope, playing extremely well from the perimeter due to well-executed spacing and ball movement, took their first lead when the game was only 24 seconds-old on the first three-point shot of the night by Hawkins and they never let it go. Overall, the team made 16 3s (another DeVos Fieldhouse record for the Flying Dutchmen) and almost doubled their 2016-17 average of nine three-pointers per game, which they made in the first half alone.
Hope got up by 19 points in the second half, never backing down from the taller WashU Bears, who outrebounded the Flying Dutchmen, 44-36.
"The key was making physical contact and trying to win battles below the waist (on taller players) because we knew we were not going to win battles above the waist and above our heads," Mitchell said. "I thought we did a really good job early, but we knew they were going to continue to kind of force their mass downhill and it got tougher. They had some easier baskets in the second half than the first. But you go right back to making some big shots and the guy right next to me (Stuive) had a lot to do with that."
Four WashU players finished in double figures — Kevin Kucera, 25; David Schmelter, 17; Andrew Sanders, 13, and, Clinton Hooks, 13. The Bears shot 40% from the floor and 71% from the free throw line. WashU ended its 2016-17 season with a 21-7 record.
"I felt like tonight we were competing against a team that has a legitimate chance of winning a national championship," Washington University head coach Mark Edwards complimented. "Of course, there are a lot of things that can happen between now and then but I really tip my hat to (Hope)."
With Stuive and Hawkins, senior forward Harrison Blackledge of Canton, Ohio (Hoover) was the other player to score in double figures for Hope 15 points. For the game, the Flying Dutchmen shot 50 percent from the floor (55 percent from beyond the arc) and 69 percent from the free throw line.