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SMC BASKETBALL: No Hope for Belles in loss to MIAA power

Tim Kaiser | Thursday, December 1, 2005

Saint Mary’s first win against Hope College since 1994 will have to wait until February.

The Belles found themselves down big at the beginning of the second half, and were unable to overcome the deficit before falling to the Flying Dutch 77-38.

Hope came out firing after halftime, and a 20-0 run in the first five minutes all but guaranteed victory.

“They made great adjustments,” Saint Mary’s coach Steve Bender said of Hope’s second-half onslaught. “[If you look at] points in the paint, 40-16, they just wore us down.”

Hope jumped out to an early lead to begin the game as well, going up 20-7 early in the first half, but the Belles were able to cut the Dutch lead to nine, and were down 28-19 at halftime.

“I thought we played about as hard as we can play the first half,” Bender said. “But offensively we were just so weak with the ball.

“But keeping a team that averages 88 points to 28 at halftime, I thought that was good.”

Saint Mary’s strong first half came despite Hope being ranked No. 1 in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA), and having outscored its two previous opponents this season 176-110.

The Flying Dutch also have won six of the last eight MIAA championships and are coached by Brian Morehouse, who in his 10 seasons at Hope is the eighth-winningest coach in Division III women’s basketball.

“The first half was [a step forward for our team], and then it made us realize that, ‘OK, this is the best team in the conference, that’s where we’ve got to go,'” Bender said. “We’ve got to emulate what they’re doing.”

One area Bender believed the team improved in was rebounding – an early-season deficiency for the Belles.

“I thought that as bad as it maybe looked that we weren’t boxing out, that they only out rebounded us by one, 47-46,” Bender said. “Like their coach said to me, we had 13 offensive rebounds in the first half, and nobody’s done that against them for a long, long time.”

The Belles have limited time to prepare before Friday’s game at 6 p.m. at North Park University in Chicago, but they still have a lot to improve on.

“We just need to work on gaining some confidence on offense,” Bender said. “We’re just not scoring a lot, and we can, we have. We’re up and down. We’re so inexperienced, there’s just so many peaks and valleys we need to meet.”

“We’ve got one practice tomorrow and our next game is Friday, so obviously we’re going to work on getting ourselves in better positions offensively, getting some better box out positions.”