by Greg Chandler
The Hope College men's basketball team rode a flurry of 3-point baskets midway through the second half to a 79-63 victory over Aquinas College Saturday in the 24th annual Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame Classic.
The Flying Dutchmen, now 4-1 on the season, rebounded from their first loss of the season by defeating the Saints after they beat Calvin University, 84-60, on Friday.
Hope was clinging to a 46-43 lead at Cornerstone University's Mol Arena with a little more than 14 minutes remaining when they began to sizzle from beyond the arc. Freshman guard Clayton Dykhouse of Zeeland, Michigan (Zeeland East HS) began the run with a 3-pointer from the right wing.
On Hope's next two possessions, freshman Evan Thomas of Okemos, Michigan (Okemos) and junior Jake Honer of Angola, Indiana (Angola) knocked down 3-pointers to give the Dutchmen their first double-digit lead of the game at 55-43.
The Flying Dutchmen weren't done with the 3-point parade. Honer and Thomas each hit another 3-pointer, and senior Riley Lewis of Williamston, Michigan (Williamston) sank back-to-back triples.
All told, Hope hit 7 of 8 3-pointers during that nearly six-minute stretch, outscoring the Saints (2-9) 25-2 to open up a 71-45 lead with 8:28 remaining.
For the game, Hope sank 13-of-22 3-point shots for 59 percent, and 31 of 57 field goals for 54 percent. The Dutchmen also dished out a season-high 22 assists while committing only 12 turnovers.
"We're a better team when the ball flies around. We knew the way they like to press it was going to open the floor a little bit," head coach Greg Mitchell said. "We felt we had to stay in attack mode.
"I think the biggest thing is that our guys just really trust each other. They love playing together. It leads to shot-making. It's one of those things where shots start to fall and confidence increases, and that's exactly what happened (tonight)."
Hope struggled a bit in the early going. Junior forward Preston Granger of Lansing, Michigan (Lansing Christian) scored 12 of the Flying Dutchmen's first 14 points, but Hope trailed 22-14 midway through the first half.
The Flying Dutchmen started to find the range from beyond the 3-point line. Junior Calvin Hackert of Ludington, Michigan (Ludington HS) ignited a 15-3 run with a triple, and Thomas and Lewis also knocked down 3-pointers. When Granger powered in for a layup, Hope led 27-25 with less than six minutes remaining in the first half. The Flying Dutchmen held a 34-31 lead at the half.
Granger led Hope was 22 points on 10-of15 shooting from the field. He pulled down a team-high seven rebounds.
Lewis tied a career high with six 3-pointers on nine attempts, finishing with 18 points. Both were named to the all-tournament team.
Thomas added nine points, all on 3-point baskets, and Honer chipped in with eight, making all three of his shots and providing a defensive spark in 13 minutes of play.
Hackert handed out a career-high nine assists and did not commit a turnover in 26 minutes of action.
Hope limited the Saints to 37 percent shooting from the field (27 of 72) and 12 percent from 3-point range (2 of 17).
"We're going to be as good as we play together," Mitchell said. "I think we're a better defensive team than we've been in the past. We've got to shore up some rebounding things, but offensively, we think we have the potential to be a really efficient team, with the skills that we have, but more importantly, with the corporate mentality (we have). These guys really enjoy each other and that's really satisfying."
All four teams split their games at the tournament. Calvin edged Cornerstone, 71-68, on a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Hope now heads to Wisconsin next weekend for a pair of contests against strong schools from the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
The Flying Dutchmen play Friday, December 6 at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. Tipoff is 7 p.m. Central and Saturday, December 7 at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Tipoff at 3 p.m. Central.