Hope Men's Basketball Downs Defending Champ Wisconsin-Stevens Point

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Guard Ben Gardner and the Hope College men's basketball team never trailed from start to finish and beat reigning NCAA Division III national champion Wisconsin-Stevens Point 68-56 on the road Saturday.

Gardner led a balanced Flying Dutchmen attack with a game-high 18 points. The senior from Carmel, Indiana (Carmel HS) also topped Hope (2-0 overall) with seven rebounds and four assists.

Hope coach Greg Mitchell was proud of his team's performance less than 24 hours after winning at Wisconsin-LaCrosse 65-47 to begin the 2015-16 season. 

"It shows what we can do when we play the right way," Mitchell said. "Our guys were so tough. They personified toughness in my book. We played absolutely tremendous defense, survived some adversity in the second half. 

"It shows what can happen when you have seniors that 'get it'. Our guys really wanted this weekend in Wisconsin. They delivered."

Senior center Brock Benson of Willowbrook, Illinois (Hinsdale HS) chipped in 13 points, five rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks.

Two more Hope starters added nine points apiece: senior forward Sam Otto of Wheaton, Illinois (Wheaton North HS) and junior forward Harrison Blackledge of Canton, Ohio (Hoover HS). 

Senior guard Alex Eidson of Grand Haven, Michigan (Grand Haven HS) chipped in 10 points off the bench, including a 3-pointer with eight seconds remaining in the first half that put the Flying Dutchmen ahead 33-26 at halftime. 

Hope outrebounded Stevens Point (2-1) by a 40-25 margin and scored 17 points off turnovers to the Pointers' three.

The score was tied just once — at 4-4 just 2 minutes, nine seconds into the game. Blackledge erased the tie 59 seconds later with a layup to start an 11-1 run. 

Hope returns to action on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 27-28 at the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame Tournament at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids.