By Gina de Haan
On Saturday afternoon, the Calvin men's basketball team continued its opening weekend with a home tilt against No. 18 Augustana College, the second meeting all-time between the two teams.
Friday night in their season opener, the Knights handily defeated Finlandia 90-49 while the Vikings snapped Alma College's 17-game home court win streak, claiming an 89-77 victory.
Despite a closely contested first half, Augustana heated up in the second half to pull away and take a 79-60 victory.
"Today was a really good test. We want to know what it's like to be thrown into fire. That's why we want to play good teams," said Calvin men's basketball head coach Kevin Vande Streek.
"I thought we hung really tough in the first half, but we didn't play particularly well to start the second half. We started to get very individualistic, both offensively and defensively. We all need to take a look in the mirror and ask ourselves what we can do better –what can I do better, what can the leadership do better, how can we execute better?"
The first half was low scoring with the lead exchanging hands on numerous occasions. The Knights struggled to find their offensive groove, shooting 34.8% from the floor (8-23) and failing to convert on any of their five three-point attempts. The home team also missed six free throws (10-16) in the first half.
A made jump shot by Augustana's Dylan Sortillo got the Vikings on the board first, but Calvin senior Nick Kronemeyer (Hamilton, MI/Hamilton) answered, making a jump shot of his own. The Vikings came back down the floor and scored to go ahead 4-2. However, Calvin's Michael Wilks (Hudsonville, MI/Unity Christian HS) completed a three-point play to put the Knights up 5-4 less than two minutes into the contest.
The Knights would increase their advantage to three points, but a big dunk by Augustana's Donovan Ferguson would knot the score at 10.
With 12:49 remaining in the first half, the Vikings would use a four-point run to go ahead by three. Calvin's Cam Denney (Bluffton, IN/Norwell HS) broke up Augustana's momentum by hitting a jump shot, but the Vikings responded with another two points to take a 16-13 lead.
Neither team scored for the next 2:27 until Michael Welch (Stevensville, MI/Lakeshore HS) was fouled and knocked down a pair of free throws. Less than a minute later, Welch was fouled again and scored another two points from the line to give Calvin a 17-16 lead with 6:39 remaining before halftime.
The two teams would exchange points in the final minutes of the half, but Augustana would go on a 4-0 run, including a last-second made jump shot by Brett Benning, to close out the half. The Vikings headed into the break with a 31-26 advantage.
To start the second half, the Vikings went on a 9-3 run to jump out to a 40-29 advantage and force a Calvin timeout. A pair of free throws by Mike Siegel (Fremont, MI/Fremont HS) followed by a jumper by Denney cut the Knights' deficit to seven, but the Vikings would score the next eight points to earn a 15-point lead (50-35).
The Knights had no answer for Augustana as the Vikings began to find their offensive groove. With just over eight minutes left to play, Augustana's Nolan Ebel knocked down back-to-back three pointers to give his team a 24-point advantage (67-43).
Although Calvin would outscore Augustana 17-12 in the final minutes of play, the Vikings would roll to a 79-60 victory.
Michael Wilks led the Knights in scoring with 12 points. Michael Welch came off the bench to contribute 11 points and led the team with six rebounds. Cam Denney and Mike Siegel chipped in eight points apiece in the loss.
Augustana claimed a narrow 25-23 rebounds advantage over Calvin. The Vikings were 60.7% (34-56) from the floor while the Knights struggled to get their shots to fall, shooting 45.7% (21-46).
The Vikings capitalized on the Knights' errors, scoring 26 points off Calvin's 16 turnovers.
"It's early in the season. We have a long way to go," noted Vande Streek. I like the parts, but we have to go back on Monday to practice and get better because these are the kinds of teams we want to be able to beat."
The Knights will be back in action next Friday when they match up against Aquinas College in the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame Tournament. Hope College will serve as host at DeVos Fieldhouse. Game time is set for 6 p.m.