by Alan Babbitt
Preston Granger, the newest 1,000-point scorer in Hope College men's basketball history, watched his Flying Dutchmen excel without him in the first half on Wednesday at DeVos Fieldhouse.
He couldn't have been prouder.
The Flying Dutchmen took control against Trine University before halftime, despite their leading scorer's early foul trouble, and claimed an 86-67 victory.
Hope (11-7 overall) moved back into a tie for third place in the MIAA standings with a 4-3 league record at the halfway point. The Flying Dutchmen are one game behind second-place Trine (11-7, 5-2 MIAA).
"Everyone watching the game would say I wasn't dominating by any means. We had major contributions from everyone who was on the floor," Granger said. "That's what we've been trying to find since the beginning of the year. If we can get everyone play well together, it's going to be sweet."
Granger became the 42nd Flying Dutchman to reach 1,000 career points in a Hope uniform on Wednesday. The junior forward from Lansing, Michigan (Lansing Christian HS) netted a game-high 24 points to give him 1,000 points in 73 career games.
"I'm proud of this guy for finding a thousand, which is amazing with a year and a half left," Mitchell said as he patted Granger on the arm. "Well deserved, but he'll be the first to give his teammates the credit."
Added Granger, "I'm super grateful to be in a Hope uniform. I cannot express how grateful I am to be at this school, playing for this team, this coach and my teammates."
Nineteen of Granger's points came during the second half and helped Hope extend a 40-30 halftime lead.
Granger sat the final 12 minutes, 57 seconds of the first half after pickup his second foul. Trine led 14-13 at the time.
Hope closed the first half on a 20-8 run that included points from Thomas, Vree, Clayton Dykhouse, Tyler George and Calvin Hackert. Relentless defense and rebounding from Joe Wilkins and others helped, too.
Mitchell was proud of his team responded after a frustrating home loss to Alma College on Saturday.
"As disappointed as we were Saturday, we're the other end of the extreme right now, just because of how we played," Mitchell said. "It was collective. Ironically enough, we played maybe our best stretch when the big fellow was sitting on the bench, which is amazing when you think of how well Preston has been playing. That lets you know guys are engaged. They trust each other. We've got a skill group, but we've got a together group."
The Flying Dutchmen held Trine to its lowest scoring MIAA game of the season.
Wilkins, a junior guard from South Haven, Michigan (South Haven) aided that cause by leading the charge against Trine's leading scorer, guard Langston Johnson.
Johnson finished with 13 points — five points below his season average — on 40-percent field-goal shooting (6-15). Forward Maurice Hunter topped Trine with 14 points.
In 16 minutes, Wilkins contributed five points and grabbed a career-high eight rebounds — only one rebound fewer than Granger's game-high.
"He was a difference maker tonight," Mitchell said of Wilkins. "He gets rewarded with rebounds, but it was staying on Johnson's right side and making things tough for him. It was his energy. We love it. We need it. We need every ounce of energy from our guys. Joe has given us that and then some."
Hope starts the second half of MIAA play on Saturday, February 1 at Olivet College. Tipoff is 5:30 p.m. at the Upton Center.