Calvin Takes Two-Game Lead in MIAA Men’s Basketball Race With 80-70 Victory Over Albion
Sunday, January 24, 2010
(written by sports information student assistant Derek Neice)
Clutch shooting in a basketball game is what separates good teams from the rest of the pack.
Saturday night, in what could be called Calvin’s most vital game thus far in the season, the Knights took on the Britons of Albion and both teams showed why they are at the top of the MIAA standings.
The Knights were carried by the three players on the team in the form of 21 points from Matt Veltema (Grandville, MI) on 6 of 9 shooting including 3 of 6 from three-point range and 16 points from both John Mantel (Chelsea, MI) and Danny Rodts (Niles, MI). Mantel connected on 3 of 6 from the field and also made 10 of 13 free throws and Rodts scored his points on 4 of 5 shooting including a pair of triples. Rodts and Veltema additionally were both perfect at the charity stripe, hitting 6 free throws each.
Mantel also grabbed nine boards, one shy of notching another double double to his belt.
“These guys have made a lot of big shots in their career already whether it’s free throws or threes,” Calvin coach Kevin Vande Streek commented on his offense’s clutch shooting after the game, “and we did a nice job finding those players when they were open.”
Albion controlled the majority of the game and brought out that clutch shooting early with white-hot perimeter shooting in the first half, connecting on 8 of 14 bombs from three-point land.
But the word for Calvin was resiliency as it took Albion’s momentum away in the second half. Calvin showed its own clutch shooting ability down the stretch, hitting three key triples in the second half to seal its sixth league win this season and in the process adding a two-game cushion in the MIAA standings.
The Knights were also phenomenal from the charity stripe in the game, hitting 37 of 42 free throws over the course of a very physical game on both ends.
“Calvin versus Albion is always very physical,” Vande Streek said of the level of physicality the game showed. “It always has been in every game we’ve played them in my fourteen years here.”
The game opened with a pair of scoring runs by both teams as Albion jumped out quickly to a 7-0 lead and Calvin responded by scoring 7 straight of their own to tie. Scoring spurts would mostly sum up the rest of the half with Albion distancing themselves on the scoreboard and Calvin making a continual comeback.
Calvin managed to stay close in the opening frame by pulling to within four points at the break, but the half was definitely not the kind of basketball Calvin wanted to have played. The Knights shot solidly from the floor, hitting on 10 of 25 attempts, but they also committed 10 turnovers in the half, allowing Albion more looks on offense than they would’ve had otherwise.
Albion also shot 57.1 percent from beyond the arc in the first half, hitting three’s like they were free throws in a half that had to have many Calvin fans uneasy as the teams went into the locker room with a 34-30 Albion lead.
“The big thing with the first half was that we were really passive,” Vande Streek said. “We seemed to go over the half line and just stop, and we did turn it over more than we would want to.”
“But coming into the second half we definitely did a much better job of that,” he continued, “and we set the tone by being more aggressive.”
Albion opened the second half on another quick spurt of points as they scored six straight to jump out to a 10 point lead early on at 40-30, but Calvin slowly made their way back into the mix of things, tying the game at 49 with ten-and-a-half minutes left in the game and later taking its first lead of the game on a triple from Veltema with just under five minutes left, giving the Knights a 62-60 advantage.
That three from Veltema to gain the lead was the second of three big shots in the half from beyond the arc ultimately being what got Calvin in the position to win the game.
Rodts drained a big shot from the corner at 6:05 to play to bring the Knights within one point, and Veltema later dropped another bomb at 3:48 to push his team up by seven, a lead Calvin would hold on to.
“Tommy [Snikkers] did a nice job of finding Danny [Rodts] on that one,” Vande Streek commented. “He looked hard at John [Mantel] and when Albion bit on it he kicked it out and Danny knocked it in and it was clutch.”
“And Veltema’s was a set thing that we saved for the situation we were in late in the game with that lead and he delivered a clutch basket,” Vande Streek continued. “Those were a couple of big daggers right there.”
Daggers is right, and once Calvin took the lead, Albion went more or less into desperation mode as the Britons tried to score early on offensive possessions and fouled more on defense.
But no miracle comeback would occur in the final minutes of this game though as the Knights took care of business and won their 11th overall game this season by an eventual score of 80-70.
“Two significant things of where we are right now is Wednesday going to Alma we have a chance to get through the first round [conference play] undefeated, and I don’t know the last time we’ve done that,” said Vande Streek.
“And that’s a pretty neat thing just to have that extra motivation,” he continued. “And to have a two-game lead this early is good but we know it’s a long road to go yet.”
The Britons landed three players into double-digit scoring as Chris Hutton poured in 17, J.C. Cruse (Detroit, MI) scored 16 and freshman Kolin Kazen (Holland, MI) dropped 15 and grabbed 7 boards.
With the win Albion falls to 4-2 in conference play this season and Calvin remains perfect with a 6-0 mark. With a perfect record going forward, Calvin’s confidence can only take a boost knowing they’ve beaten nearly every team in the MIAA thus far, but a tough road schedule remains for the Knights as they hit the road for their next three games, including tough match-ups at Hope and Olivet.
“The old saying is ‘Take one game at a time,’ and that’s exactly right,” said Vande Streek of Calvin’s upcoming schedule. “We had an emotional game today and a big rivalry game Saturday, so Wendsday [at Alma] could really be a trap game.”
“So you got to take them one game at a time and be ready,” he continued, “and the one thing I want from this group is to continue to get better every day.”
Calvin is back on the court on January 27th as it travels to Alma for another conference duel in which the Knights seek their seventh league victory. That game is set to commence at 7:30 p.m.