By Mark DeHaan
ALLIANCE, OH - The Calvin Knights men's basketball team played the host Purple Raiders of Mount Union on Saturday evening to battle for a berth in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
Calvin defeated Oswego State 78-69 on Friday evening to advance while the Purple Raiders defeated Neumann College 87-59 to move on to the second round.
On Saturday, it was host Mount Union proving to be too much for the Knights.
Behind strong three-point shooting, Mount Union jumped out to a double-digit lead in the first half. The Knights cut the deficit to three early in the second half, but the Purple Raiders answered every
Calvin run with a big three to hold the Knights at bay. Mount Union then claimed an 81-69 win.
Mount Union got off to a strong shooting start, putting the Knights into an early deficit. Guard Nate Jacubec scored the opening five points of the game for the Purple Raiders, and with 13:16 to go in the first, Mount Union was up 15-5.
Seven straight for Calvin, with four coming from junior Jordan Daley, cut Calvin's deficit to three at 15-12.
Over the next six-plus minutes, a 22-6 Mount Union run saw the hosts build their largest lead of the game at 37-18 with 4:14 remaining in the first half.
As time ticked away in the first, Calvin fought back. The Knights closed out the opening period on a 12-1 run to cut Mount Union's lead to 38-30 at the break.
At halftime, Daley led all scorers with 12 points. Guard Kyle Scelza had eight for Mount Union. The Purple Raiders shot 51.7% from the field in the opening half, while Calvin hit just 35.5% of its shots, including 26.7% from three-point range.
Out of the break, the Knights got within three as they opened the second period with a 5-0 run.
Mount Union responded with a 14-4 run to push its lead to 52-39.
The Knights answered back, closing the gap to 57-52 behind six points from Daley six from sophomore Cam Denney, and a three from junior Austin Parks.
Three straight triples from the Purple Raiders then put Mount Union back ahead by double-digits at 66-52 with 7:13 to go.
In the remaining time, Calvin got to within single-digits on just one occasion.
The Purple Raiders hit 7-of-8 free-throws in the final two minutes to close out an 81-69 win.
Calvin shot 41.3% for the game, but just 10-of-33 for 30.3% from three-point range. On the other side, Mount Union hit 51.9% of its field goals, including 14-of-30 for 46.7% from beyond the arc.
"One of the trademarks of this team has been great resiliency," said head coach Kevin Vande Streek. "We've had times where we've been down late and games and won, we've never quit. It wasn't a perfect game but the team played really hard. They certainly weren't intimidated, they didn't play poorly, the other team was just a little better than us today."
Individually, Daley led Calvin with 21 points, adding six rebounds. Parks added 17 points while Denney finished with 11.
For Mount Union, Jacubec scored 19 and Scelza added 16, with each guard tallying four three-pointers.
"Calvin was in the Sweet Sixteen last year, they had a lot of seniors and they're unbelievably well-coached," said Mount Union head coach Mike Fuline. "We got them off the three point line, challenged everything, and really battled inside."
The game ends the careers of four Knights: Jordan Brink, Tyler Dykstra, TJ Huizenga, and Dan Stout.
"They're such high character guys and are four of the nicest young men that you will ever meet," said Vande Streek regarding his seniors. "Never a stitch of problem – good in the class room, on the floor, with younger players – real high character group and we'll really miss them."
Calvin's season concludes with a 22-7 record.