by Eva Dean Folkert
In finding their 103rd way to beat Calvin College in The Rivalry, the Hope men's basketball team also notched their first three-game win streak of the 2017-18 season. It could come at no better time.
Unlike their January showdown with Calvin at DeVos Fieldhouse when Hope took the lead with only 62 seconds to go in the game (which they eventually won too), the Flying Dutchmen never trailed in this latest Hope/Calvin rivalry contest, defeating the Knights, 76-59, at Van Noord Arena on Saturday in front of a crowd of 4,089.
Hope now co-leads a tight and turbulent MIAA race with Olivet College and Adrian College, who also own a 7-3 league record like Hope. Overall, Hope is 13-8.
The loss drops Calvin to 4-6 in the MIAA and 8-13 overall.
Over the course of 97 years in 198 games between these two longtime, contentious men's basketball programs, only 106 points separate them. That's a miniscule difference of only .535353 points per game. Hope now owns a 103-95 all-time record over Calvin.
The Flying Dutchmen also put forth their best defensive performance of the season by holding the Knights to fewer than 60 points. They were stingy with Kalamazoo College too earlier this week when they held the Hornets to 65 points on Wednesday.
"Without question that was our best 40 minutes of defense," Coach Greg Mitchell said. "Certainly that's predicated on the respect we have for the match-ups (with Calvin) and how hard we have to play here. They're certainly big and strong and I thought the key was us trying to refuse what they were trying to do."
For Hope, that meant to deny entry passes and front the post where Calvin's height could seem prodigious.
"Today was a good day but we are work in progress," Mitchell continued. "We're one of the worst teams in the country for field goal percentage allowed. That's why I'm so proud of them for today."
In the first half, good ball distribution brought about early shooting involvement from forwards Dennis Towns and Teddy Ray and center Preston Granger. The plan to assert themselves as a team made up of more than guards created balance and opened up multiple scoring opportunities for the Dutchmen, even though senior guard Jason Beckman accounted for 10 of the Dutchmen's first 14 points.
By the 12:18 mark, Hope had its largest lead of the first half, 16-2, on guard Dante Hawkins' bucket from a Beckman assist. At halftime, Hope held onto a 31-20 advantage.
When the second half opened, Calvin cut the lead to seven, 31-24, with two quick baskets by Derrick DeVries and Austin Bykerk. That would be as close as the Knights would get to the Flying Dutchmen for the rest of the game. Hope held its widest margin at 24 points, 63-39, with 8:36 to go when Hawkins nailed one of his five three-pointers.
Hope senior guard Hawkins (pictured) got a hot hand in the second half when he scored 14 of his team-high 23 points; freshman Granger established a bold and confident presence in the paint by scoring 18 points, and "JB (Jason Beckman) was being JB (scoring 22)," added Mitchell. "But it was just a collective effort. Everyone who stepped on the floor made us better today."
Having 19 assists on 28 baskets was another clear sign of Hope's solid collective effort.
"There is a lot of energy here and it doesn't take a lot to really get going," said Granger of Lansing, Michigan (Lansing Christian). "I think the reason why I played pretty well was every time I would set a ball screen, they doubled Jason and he would find the dump down and I would try and finish it."
The Knights were led in scoring by DeVries with 17 points, Michael Wilks with 15, and Carlos Amoros with 10.
Calvin did grab a small rebounding advantage for the game, 34-33. Towns of Flint, Michigan (Powers Catholic HS) and Ray of Fort Wayne, Indiana (Homestead HS) gathered in 10 boards each for the Dutchmen.
From the field, Hope shot 50% to Calvin's 34.5%. The Flying Dutchmen were good on 10 of 21 three-point attempts for 47.6% to Calvin's three of 19 for 15.8%.
"This is obviously a huge win on the road for a pretty young group but we got work to do on Wednesday against a team that beat us up pretty good at their place," added junior Beckman of Shelby, Michigan (Shelby HS), "so we've got a pretty good matchup coming up."
"That pretty good matchup" will be with Adrian College, a 74-63 winner over Hope back on January 13. Tipoff between these two league-leading teams is at 7:30 p.m on Wednesday in DeVos Fieldhouse.