Calvin Knocks off Wittenberg 66-51 in NCAA III First Round Tournament Game
Friday, March 07, 2014
By Mark DeHaan
The Calvin men’s basketball team traveled to St. Louis, Missouri and the campus of Washington University for its first round matchup of the NCAA Tournament against #23 Wittenberg University and came away with an impressive 66-51 victory. Calvin will face second-ranked Washington University Saturday night at 8 p.m. (EST) in regional final contest. The victory marked Calvin’s first win over Wittenberg since 1990. Friday’s matchup marked Calvin’s first meeting against Wittenberg since 1995.
The Knights entered the matchup having gone 1-6 all-time against the Tigers while Calvin head coach Kevin Vande Streek was 6-1 in first round NCAA Tournament contests.
Wittenberg earned an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament, finishing second in the North Coast Athletic Conference at a 21-7 record and the #24 national ranking.
The Knights, meanwhile, where coming off a 78-53 win over rival Hope in the MIAA Tournament Championship. Calvin earned the #23 national ranking in the final regular season poll of the year at a record of 22-5.
Despite the near-equal rankings, it was Calvin that took a first half lead and held it throughout the remainder of the game, building its lead to as much as 21 before settling at a final score of 66-51, moving on to the second round with the victory.
The Tigers scored the first two baskets of the game to take a 5-0 lead. After a jumper by senior Tyler Kruis, a steal by sophomore Jordan Daley and an ensuing breakaway dunk energized the Knights.
Calvin could not pull away in the opening 13 minutes, however, and with 7:02 remaining, the game was deadlocked at 20-20.
The Knights then dominated for the remainder of the first half, outscoring the Tigers 17-5 to take a 37-25 lead by halftime.
Senior Tyler Kruis had 13 points at halftime while Daley scored six and added four steals in the opening half.
Out of the break, Wittenberg cut Calvin’s advantage down to single digits at 39-30 with 17:38 to go.
Eight straight points by the Knights then put them firmly on top, and Calvin’s lead grew to as much as 21 at 55-34 with 7:30 remaining in the game.
The Tigers got no closer than 13 the rest of way, and Calvin claimed a 66-51 victory.
The Knights played strong defense all night long, forcing Wittenberg into 18 turnovers while only allowing the Tigers to shoot 35.2% from the field.
Kruis had 19 points and seven rebounds to lead the Knights offensively, while junior Jordan Brink added 10. Senior Mickey DeVries chipped in nine points and had three key blocks while Daley stuffed the stat-sheet with six points, six steals, five rebounds, five assists, and no turnovers.
For Wittenberg, Zack Leahy scored 15 to pace the Tigers while Steven Newell scored nine.
“The last few games I think we’ve played as well defensively as maybe any team I’ve ever had,” said head coach Kevin Vande Streek. “We’ve seen it where we’ve had a hard time getting the ball deep into our half-court offense and how disruptive that can be, so we’ve worked hard and gotten better at turning the tables and being disruptive defensively ourselves.”
With the win, the Knights advance to the second round which will be played on Saturday night at 8 p.m. against either host Washington University or Wilmington University. The game and victory marked Vande Streek’s 500th at Calvin, improving his record to 358-142 in his 18 years as head coach.