by Alan Babbitt
An opposing All-American center commanded the full attention of a Hope College men's basketball team still not at a 100 percent.
Missing one starting forward and one reserve forward, the Flying Dutchmen worked together to claim an 84-77 victory against Ohio Northern University on Tuesday in the home opener at DeVos Fieldhouse.
Hope improved to 2-1 overall after rebounding from a 73-55 loss to Simpson College (Iowa) in the championship game of the North Park University Tournament Saturday in Chicago.
The Flying Dutchmen overcame 26 points and 66.7-percent field-goal shooting from 6-8 Ohio Northern standout Ryan Bruns, who went 12-of-18 from the field.
"That was an extremely big win for Hope. That's a really good basketball team that puts you in tough positions," head coach Greg Mitchell said of the Polar Bears. "They have a center that's that good and efficient is hard to guard. We talked about playing as hard as we could together and loving on each other. No matter what happens just make the next play."
Senior guard Jason Beckman of Shelby, Michigan (Shelby HS) scored a game-high 33 points for Hope. He ranks sixth for the most points by a Flying Dutchmen player at DeVos Fieldhouse.
He made a key three-point play during the final minute to push Hope's lead to 81-77. He sank the free throw after landing hard on the court following a lay-up.
Beckman went 11-of-11 at the foul line. He was just two free throws behind Jim Vander Hill's 1961 Hope record for most free throws in a game without a miss.
Senior guard Jeff Goral of Palos Heights, Illinois (Amos Alonzo Stagg) finished with eight points.
Senior forward Dennis Towns of Flint, Michigan (Powers Catholic) added four points and a game-high nine rebounds.
Towns scored on lead-extending jumpers with 8:00 and 5:24 remaining.
The Flying Dutchmen shot 88 percent from the foul line and outscored Ohio Northern there, 22-5.
Hope returns to action on Friday-Saturday, November 23-24 with the annual Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame Classic hosted this year by Calvin College.