By Gina de Haan
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Calvin men's basketball team picked up its first win of the season in its home opener against Wheaton College on Tuesday night. The Knights' well-balanced scoring effort lifted the Maroon and Gold to a 96-86 victory at Van Noord Arena.
With the win, the Knights improve to 1-2 on the season, while Wheaton falls to 2-1.
Tuesday night's game marked the 59th meeting between the two teams that dates back to the 1949-1950 season. The Thunder and the Knights had split the last four meetings. Calvin has now won three of the last five including the last two at Van Noord Arena.
The matchup marked the third consecutive game for Calvin against an opponent from the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW). The Knights opened their season with an 80-69 loss at No. 2 Augustana. On Saturday, Calvin fell at Illinois Wesleyan 94-82.
Senior Tony Canonie (South Haven, Mich./South Haven) posted his first collegiate double-double in the victory, leading the Knights with a career-high 17 points and also dishing out 10 assists.
The Thunder got on the board first, but the Knights responded with six straight points to take an early lead. Calvin continued to push the ball, and senior Michael Wilks (Hudsonville, Mich./Unity Christian) capitalized on a three-point play, sinking a jump shot and the following free throw to give the Knights a 13-4 advantage.
Calvin maintained its lead as the teams exchanged points, but a steal by sophomore Alex Bos (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian) led to a three-pointer by sophomore Derrick DeVries (Grand Rapids, Mich./Covenant Christian) to widen the gap to double-digits.
The Thunder cut Calvin's lead to seven, but the Knights answered with five straight points to lead 29-17. Junior Austin Bykerk (Jension, Mich./Unity Christian) knocked down a pair of free throws and sophomore Tom Morrison (Bristol, Ind./Northridge) followed with a three-pointer to force a Wheaton timeout.
With just over four minutes to play in the first half, Wheaton's Aston Francis hit a three to make it a six-point game. After a Calvin timeout, another Thunder basket brought the score to 36-32, but Tom Morrison answered with a three-pointer in the next possession.
The teams exchanged points late in the first half with Calvin barely hanging on to its lead. Wheaton scored 16 points in the final five minutes before the break. The Thunder held the Knights scoreless for the final 1:30 of the half, while hitting back-to-back three-pointers to bring the score to 44-43, still in favor of Calvin as the teams headed into the locker rooms.
Calvin came out strong in the second half, using a 7-0 run to earn an eight-point lead and force a quick Wheaton timeout. Wilks sparked the Knights' offense with a three-point basket eight seconds into the half. Luke Morrison (Bristol, Ind./Northridge) added a layup before Wilks knocked down a jump shot.
The Thunder pushed back, outscoring the Knights 9-3 to decrease the advantage to three. Canonie answered with a three-pointer, but Wheaton scored the next seven points to go up 58-57, its first lead of the game. Tom Morrison quickly regained the lead for the Knights, scoring a three in the next possession.
After another Wheaton bucket, the score was knotted at 60, but Calvin regained its lead after a pair of free throws and a layup by Luke Morrison.
As the midpoint of the half passed, the Knights scored seven consecutive points to increase their lead to nine points. Canonie contributed five points to the run, hitting a jump shot and a timely three-pointer, while DeVries added two points.
Following a Calvin timeout, Wheaton's Ricky Samuelson hit back-to-back triples to narrow the Knights' lead to three. A three-point play by Bykerk gave the Knights a 73-68 lead with just over seven minutes remaining.
The teams exchanged points until a bucket in the paint by junior Jason Walter (Coloma, Mich./Coloma) gave Calvin a nine-point lead, and Wheaton called timeout. Out of the break, Wheaton's Francis hit his fourth three of the evening, but was quickly answered by Canonie who sunk a triple of his own. The Knights held an 84-75 lead with just under five minutes remaining.
After a pair of Thunder free throws, Wilks drained a big three to give the Knights a 10-point advantage with 3:22 left on the clock.
Wheaton chipped Calvin's lead down to six points with one minute remaining, but the Knights fended off a late comeback. With 28 seconds left on the clock, Bos fed Carlos Amoros-Gutierrez (Wyoming, Mich./Wyoming) for a three-pointer and the Knights rolled to a 10-point victory.
The Thunder scored seven points off free throws in the final four minutes of play.
"It was fun to see the lid come off the basket for our team tonight," said Calvin men's basketball coach Kevin Vande Streek. "To make shots – to shoot it from the three-point point line like we did tonight – it's been a long time coming and it feels really good. Our intensity from start to finish was really good. They (Wheaton) have a couple of great scorers but I thought we did a pretty good job there defensively making them earn their points. That's a pretty big win for us with such a young team."
Calvin shot 49.2% from field, including 44.8% from three-point range with 13 triples.
Six Knights scored in double digits, while the bench contributed 35 points in the winning effort. Wilks finished with 15 points and a team-high seven boards, while Bykerk and Tom Morrison added 14 points apiece. Luke Morrison and Derrick DeVries posted 12 and 10 points, respectively, while Amoros-Gutierrez added nine off the bench.
"Tony Canonie. Wow. How about that performance tonight? He was terrific," said Vande Streek. "Tom Morrison and Derrick DeVries off the bench were big lifts for us. Austin Bykerk was also outstanding tonight. He was a major force."
According to Canonie, the balanced scoring effort proved key in a game that featured several scoring runs. "They (Wheaton) are a very good team. It was a game of runs. We just hung in there, battled and pulled it out at the end. It was a fun game to play in. Everyone was sharing the ball and our shots were going in. Hopefully we can do more of that this year."
The Knights are back in action this weekend as they will compete in the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame Classic at nearby Aquinas College. Calvin will face host Aquinas on Friday night at 8 p.m. and then meet Cornerstone on Saturday at 6 p.m.