by Eva Dean Folkert
A first-half funk stymied the Hope College men's basketball team against rival Calvin University on Wednesday at VanNoord Arena in Grand Rapids. In their lowest scoring half of the season, the Flying Dutchmen tallied only 20 points in the first 20 minutes of play.
Hope's shooting woes — 22.2% from the field in the first half — were brought on in large part by relentless ball pressure by the Knights who had offensive output trouble of their own against Hope's staunch defense. Calvin scored only 24 points on 27.6% shooting in the half.
But when the second stanza got going, things heated up for both teams. Though more so for the Knights. As Hope shot 48% in the second half, Calvin knocked down 55.2% of its shots — including nine of 18 beyond the arc — and the Knights defeated the Flying Dutchmen, 75-62.
Now after 202 games between the two teams in the storied Rivalry that started in 1920, just 85 points separate them. Hope leads the series, 103-99.
"It was a tale of two halves," said head coach Greg Mitchell. "I told the guys I loved our energy. Our first-half focus on the defensive end was great. We did a great job on the glass. Obviously, we just couldn't find an offensive rhythm and consistency."
The first half saw three lead changes and four tied scores. Hope took its largest lead of the game at 6-2 when junior forward Ryan Gamm of Rockford (Rockford HS) made a layup at the 14:58 mark.
The Flying Dutchmen had zero three-point attempts, though, in the first half. In fact, Hope's first shot beyond the arc came with 15:50 to go in the second half, taken by freshman guard Evan Thomas of Okemos (Okemos HS). It missed, but Thomas made good on Hope's first three-pointer less than a minute later.
Calvin held its largest lead in the second half when it went up, 68-48, with 5:49 to go. Much of the Knight build-up came from senior guard Thad Shymanski who scored 20 of his 25 points in the second half, with six three pointers, as he led Calvin in scoring.
The Knights completed scored 12 of 29 three-point attempts overall, while the Flying Dutch went 3-for-8 beyond the arc.
Hope's junior center Preston Granger of Lansing (Lansing Christian), pictured right, recorded a double-double for the Flying Dutchmen with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Sophomore guard Tyler George of Ada (Forest Hills Central HS), pictured center, and Thomas, pictured left, added 11 and 10 points, respectively.
"We gotta get an inside-out presence," Mitchell observed. "I thought that was a big deal tonight. We have to make those plays in space. You got to see it and that comes with experience. For some of our guys, it wasn't there. Our strength has been our inside game, so I'm not going to blame our bigs because I thought they were going down low and trying to be very aggressive. But we have to cut to the hoop and space the arc."
Senior forward Mason Opple of Hudsonville (Hudsonville HS) is playing in his first season of Hope basketball. (Opple is an all-league football and baseball player for Hope as well.) In his first Hope-Calvin basketball game, he scored seven points on 3-for-3 from the floor and 1-for-1 from the free throw line in 12 minutes of play. He also grabbed three rebounds.
"You hear everything about the Hope-Calvin Rivalry, you watch it for the last three years, (but now) to be a part of it is pretty cool," said Opple. "It was a great atmosphere tonight. It would have been a lot more fun to have won. . . They shot the ball well tonight. We gotta be better."
For the game, Hope shot 34.6% while Calvin connected on 41.4% of its shots. On the glass, the Flying Dutchmen owned a plus-four rebound advantage, 37-33. Yet, when it came to distributing the ball, the Knight recorded 19 assists to Hope's four.
Hope is now 8-6 overall and 1-2 in the MIAA. Calvin is also 8-6 but holds a 2-1 league record.
The Flying Dutchmen return to DeVos Fieldhouse for a home game on Saturday, January 18. Hope will take on Adrian College. Tipoff is at 3 p.m.