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SMC Basketball: Bender sees a new Hope in big game

Joe Meixell | Wednesday, November 30, 2005

When Saint Mary’s hosts Hope College tonight in its first conference game, Belles coach Steve Bender knows his team cannot afford a repeat of its previous outing.

“We absolutely have to come out playing hard this time,” Bender said.

That’s because Saint Mary’s fell behind 24-2 to Carthage Saturday, in a start Bender called “pathetic.” The Belles never regrouped, and Carthage sailed to a 63-45 victory.

Hope, the defending MIAA champion, is undefeated at 2-0 as it enters Angela Athletic Facility for a 7:30 p.m. tip-off.

Bender said in addition to starting well, his team must shoot better to have any chance at winning. On Saturday, Saint Mary’s shot 17 percent in the first half.

Bender, who is now 1-3 in his first year as Saint Mary’s head coach, called the young season a “roller coaster” for the Belles. He said, in spite of the rough start, the team needs to “keep going forward.”

And despite the poor record, he said the team has been improving in practice and must translate that progress into game situations beginning tonight.

Bridget Boyce and Alison Kessler lead Saint Mary’s in scoring, averaging 14.8 and 11.0 points per game, respectively. Bender also predicts solid contributions from freshmen Erin Newsom, Nicole Beier, Calli Davison and Emily Light, who all logged at least ten minutes of playing time against Carthage.

With the added contributions of some of these underclassmen and the steady guard play of Boyce and Kessler, Bender believes his group will show it can compete with the top teams in the league.

“We can’t back down against [Hope], or they’ll have their way with us,” Bender said.

The game, which is the Belles’ first against a league opponent, will be played at the Angela Athletic Facility at Saint Mary’s on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

After Hope, the Belles face North Park University Friday . They return to league play next Wednesday and Saturday games against Adrian and Alma, respectively.