By Greg Chandler
CRESTVIEW HILLS, Kentucky | The Hope College women's basketball team jumped out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter, then withstood several runs by Wisconsin-Whitewater to defeat the Warhawks, 78-71, Friday night in a NCAA Division III tournament opener at Thomas More College.
With the win, the Flying Dutch (23-4) get a shot at defending Division III national champion Thomas More on Saturday night. The Saints ran their record to 28-0 Friday with a 97-58 rout of Eureka, Illinois.
Tip-off between the two nationally ranked teams will be 6:30 p.m. Doors open at 5 p.m., and tickets will go on sale at this time.
The Flying Dutch, No. 15 in the WBCA poll and No. 18 by D3hoops.com, look forward to the challenge of facing a Thomas More team that has not lost a game at the Connor Convocation Center in three years. Thomas More is ranked No. 2 by WBCA and No. 3 by D3hoops.com.
"This is why you play in the national tournament. You want to win, you want to advance, and with that, comes opportunity," head coach Brian Morehouse said. "One way or another, a great team will go home tomorrow and a great team will advance, and I think that great team has an opportunity to make a good long (tournament) run. This is a Final Four matchup, in my opinion, being played in the round of 32."
"This is why you play in the national tournament. You want to win, you want to advance, and with that, comes opportunity," Morehouse said. "One way or another, a great team will go home tomorrow and a great team will advance, and I think that great team has an opportunity to make a good long (tournament) run. This is a Final Four matchup, in my opinion, being played in the round of 32."
Against Whitewater, the Flying Dutch played terrific defense in the early going, limiting Whitewater to 2-of-17 shooting from the field in the first quarter.
Hope pounded the ball consistently down low to sophomore center Francesca Buchanan of Grant, Michigan (Sparta HS), pictured, who scored eight of the Flying Dutch's first 12 points.
The Flying Dutch built a 15-5 lead after the first 10 minutes.
"I thought the key was a fast start for us," Morehouse said. "It was nice to play with a lead. We haven't done that much in the last two games."
Whitewater warmed up quickly early in the second quarter. Three 3-point baskets - two by Brooke Trewyn and a third by Reilly Stewart - cut the Hope lead to 21-16 a little more than two minutes into the quarter. However, the Flying Dutch stretched the lead back out to 11 and took a 41-32 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Senior Tyra Smith of Grand Rapids, Michigan (GR Christian) helped Hope keep the Warhawks at bay in the third quarter, scoring 10 of her 16 points as the Flying Dutch took a 60-54 lead into the final quarter.
Whitewater crept to within three points at 68-65 with 4:23 remaining, but the Flying Dutch came up with several big plays down the stretch to seal the win.
Senior Allison Hedrick's three-point play off an offensive rebound extended the Hope lead to six, and her reverse layup 20 seconds later made it 73-65.
Whitewater got within four again with less than two minutes left, but five free throws in the final 43 seconds, including three by senior Angelique Gaddy, assured Hope its eighth win in its last nine NCAA first-round games.
"Every time they made a run, we had some sort of answer," Morehouse said. "I thought our glue kids really stepped up tonight. Al did a great job, I thought Paris Madison did a great job. I thought Mandy (Traversa) finally looked healthy after battling through 2 ½ weeks of injuries. I thought our seniors played like they wanted more games."
Hope shot 50 percent from the field (31-of-62) while limiting Whitewater to 38 percent (25-of-66).
Buchanan led the Flying Dutch with 21 points and eight rebounds, while Smith added 16 points.
Mandy Traversa, a senior from Winfield, Illinois (Wheaton North) had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Hedrick, a senior from Naperville, Illinois (Wheaton North), scored 10 points and pulled down five boards in 17 minutes off the bench.
Trewyn led Whitewater (21-7) with 20 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, while Malia Smith added 19 points, including a flurry of four 3-pointers in the first five minutes of the second half.