by Alan Babbitt
Greg Mitchell deferred credit for the coaching milestone he reached Friday night at DeVos Fieldhouse to his Hope College men's basketball players, including the two seated next to him at a post-game interview following an 84-72 victory against Ripon College (Wisconsin).
Thomas, in his first Hope game, scored a team-high 19 points off the bench. The freshman from Okemos, Michigan (Okemos HS), shot 60 percent from the floor in 24 minutes.
George, making his first collegiate start, added a career-high 18 points. The sophomore from Ada, Michigan (Forest Hills Central) shot 70 percent from the floor while playing a career-high 30 minutes.
"I had no idea," Mitchell said of the milestone that was celebrated by the Hope Dew Crew student section holding up white, rectangle signs with 100 of them in orange. "That's the players. I haven't won one game. You stick around long enough, you're going to find some wins. I'm proud to get this one win. That's all the matters to me."
Photo of Tyler George and Greg Mitchell, from left, by Steve Herppich
Mitchell is now 100-41 in six seasons as the Flying Dutchmen's head coach. He also was part of 74 victories at his alma mater as a basketball player (1985-89).
Against Ripon, Thomas led a second-half charge that propelled Hope. The 6-4 guard hit two 3-pointers and a jumper in succession over a span of three possessions to turn a 51-47 deficit into a 55-51 lead with 14 minutes, 13 seconds remaining.
Ripon (0-1) tied the score at 55-55, but Hope never trailed the rest of the game.
Thomas totaled 17 points in the second half alone. He went 6-of-10 from the field for the game and 3-of-4 from 3-point range.
George chipped in eight points after halftime after leading Hope with 11 first-half points. The co-captain finished 7-of-10 from the field and 3-of-5 from 3-point range.
The Flying Dutchmen trailed 40-38 at halftime after Ripon closed the final two minutes on an 8-0 run.
Thomas and George were among three Flying Dutchmen to reach double figures. Junior forward Preston Granger of Lansing, Michigan (Lansing Christian) netted 17 points and a team-high seven rebounds.
"I'm really, really happy with the way things evolved in the second half," Mitchell said. "We're going to grow. It's going to take some time. We were pretty bad on the glass in the first half and it showed. The nice about it is we survived some of their biggest punches and fought right back. Eight offensive rebounds in the second half was critical for us. (Tyler and Nate) were really comfortable on the floor, which I thought was key.
"It was kind of ugly, but wins don't have to have window dressing. You just have to have a 'W'. We needed it. I'm really proud of these guys."
Hope's next game is Wednesday, November 13 at DeVos Fieldhouse against Benedictine University (Illinois). Tipoff is 7:30 p.m.