Men's Basketball Drops Russ DeVette Holiday Classic Finale to Illinois Tech

by Eva Dean Folkert

Matt Zandstra poses for a portrait. Playing in its last game of the decade, the Hope College men's basketball team suffered a rare home loss on Saturday in the finale of the Russ DeVette Holiday Classic, falling to the Illinois Institute of Technology, 72-58, at DeVos Fieldhouse.

Now, as the new year approaches, the Flying Dutchmen will look to reset their offense right alongside their 2020 calendar. And there's no better time to do it. Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association play begins in 10 days. Hope, 7-4 overall, will host Olivet College, 2-8 overall, on Wednesday, January 8 at 7:30 p.m.

Shooting accuracy was Hope's downfall on Saturday, especially in the first half when the Flying Dutchmen shot 18.5% from the floor. (They shot 32.1% for the game.) Illinios Tech (3-8) finished with 59.1% shooting.

Hope never held at lead against the Scarlet Hawks who jumped out to a 7-0 lead at the start of the contest. By the middle of the first half, Illinois Tech widened its lead to 10. And though the Flying Dutchmen would make a dent in their opponent's advantage, whittling it down to six points, 28-22, with 2:32 in the half, they would not get any closer than that the rest of the way.

Hope trailed Illinois Tech, 33-25, at the half. The halftime (25) and game (58) point totals were lows for Hope this season.

"There was a lid on the bucket for a while, and I think that led to us maybe dropping our chins a little bit and not being as tough and resilient as we need to be," said head coach Greg Mitchell. 

"I got to give Illinois Tech a lot of credit," he continued. "There were some match-ups that certainly presented some challenges for us. A big athletic team is a little tougher for us to deal with. What we talked about at halftime was energy, engagement, voice, noise, passion, emotion. But it was one of those days when we're just flat."

Except for Matt Zandstra, pictured, perhaps. The senior guard from Schererville, Indiana (Illiana Christian HS) came in from off the bench late in the game to lead Hope in scoring with 12 points on a perfect 5-for-5 (2-for-2 from the three-point line) as well as recording two steals in six minutes of play. 

"I said (to Matt when he went in), 'Go make a difference. Teach us a lesson.' If we're not going to win, we got to finish the game the right way, and he taught us so much and that shows me a lot. That's a senior who is focused on what's next. . . Credit to Matt for playing until the buzzer sounded, which obviously is a great message."

Hope's only other player scoring in double digits was center Preston Granger of Lansing (Lansing Christian HS) who scored 10 points. The junior was named to the all-tournament team after scoring 27 points on Friday against Westminster College (Pa.) in the DeVette opener.