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SMC Basketball: Calvin visits for critical showdown

Allan Joseph | Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Saint Mary’s will host No. 10 Calvin Wednesday night while looking for its first win of conference play’s second half. The Belles will hope to bust out of a rut in which they have dropped four of seven, but will have to try to do so against a formidable foe.

The Knights (16-2, 8-1 MIAA) have lost only one conference game, to Hope, the nation’s No. 4 team.

Calvin is led by a pair of standout forwards in senior Brook VanEck and freshman Carissa VerKaik. The two have combined to average 28.3 points per game, 16.9 rebounds per game (5.8 offensive) and 4.6 blocks per game. The Knights do not solely rely on their inside game, however, as senior guard Amber Benthem averages 7.1 points per game and sophomore guard Courtney Kurncz averages 6.2 points per game.

To stop Calvin’s one-two punch, the Belles (10-7, 5-4) will rely on senior forward and captain Anna Kammrath and sophomore forward Kelly Murphy. They will have to limit VanEck and VerKaik’s opportunities by preventing offensive rebounding and contesting shots in the paint. Junior guard Liz Wade will be called upon to limit the Knights’ inside-out game by guarding Calvin’s shooters.

This game will be a pivotal opportunity for the Belles to gain ground in the conference standings. Saint Mary’s is currently third in the MIAA, three games behind Calvin, but four teams are tied just one game behind the Belles. A win could give the Belles the momentum they need to separate themselves from the rest of the pack and push conference-leading Hope.

Calvin won the first meeting between these two teams, 64-58, on Dec. 11, though Saint Mary’s was never out of the game until the very end. The Belles will hope their home court provides the necessary advantage to pull off the upset.

Saint Mary’s hosts the Knights tonight at 7:30 in the Angela Athletic Center.