Women’s basketball wins fifth consecutive home victory over Hope
The No. 2 Calvin women’s basketball team knocked off rival No. 6 Hope College for the fourth time in five games Saturday night.
A crowd of almost 3,000 saw the Knights battle to a 64-59 win, giving Calvin its 12th straight victory and sole possession of first place in the MIAA.
Three Calvin players scored in double-figures, but senior Carissa Verkaik’s second-half performance made the difference. The Knights’ star had a game-high 17 points, with 12 coming after halftime.
After Calvin jumped out to a 15-5 lead early, Hope came back to lead 29-28 at halftime buzzer.
“It was great to come out strong, but Hope is a phenomenal team and we knew they were going to make a run,” said Kayla Engelhard, who finished with 16 points.
Verkaik was forced to sit the final nine minutes of the first half on the bench due to foul trouble.
“It was a little frustrating to watch Hope come back and not be able to do anything,” said Verkaik. “The second half we just seemed to play as a team and we just needed to play together. That’s what we did a lot better in the second half.”
Throughout the game, Calvin struggled on the offensive side of the ball, shooting only 18-29 at the free throw line and allowing a staggering 28 turnovers.
“The only thing that helped us out is [Hope] going 6-21 from three, and they usually shoot the three very well,” said Calvin coach John Ross. “We were just strong enough defensively to make up for all our turnovers.”
Hope leads the nation in scoring defense, allowing opponents just 43.5 points per game. But Calvin was able to put up 64 points on the Dutch, which is still less than the Knights’ season average of 78 points.
But Calvin’s ability to play just as well behind the ball was also key.
“We try to take as much pride in our defense as possible,” said Ross. “We spend so much time in practice on defense and we talk about it all the time. It’s huge to shut them down.”
Hope coach Brian Morehouse recognized the game could have swung either way, as Calvin’s lead narrowed to one possession with a minute to play.
“Everything was very, very even between us. [Calvin] made five more free throws than us and that was it,” he said. “We could have lost by landslide, but our team showed great character by digging their heels in.”
Hope senior Liz Ellis struggled, shooting just 3 for 20 from the floor.
“We’re a hardnosed team and we’re not going to crumble,” she said. “We fought back and point by point we hung with them. It just came down to the end: they got into the double bonus and we didn’t.”
Like Morehouse and Ellis, Calvin’s Engelhard knew the game would be tough, but she was happy to get the win.
“We knew it was going to be a battle and that’s what we got the whole game,” said Engelhard. “That’s why we appreciate playing teams like Hope.”