HOLLAND, Mich. -- For the first 15 minutes of Friday’s game, Westminster (Mo.) went toe-to-toe with the nation’s top-ranked Division III team.

Then Nate Snuggerud took over.

Hope's junior forward who led the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association in scoring this season exploded for 37 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Flying Dutchmen to a 79-65 victory against the Blue Jays in a first-round game of the Division III tournament.

“I think that good teams find a way to win, and we had to search hard to find a way to win tonight,” Hope coach Matt Neil said. “I give Westminster a lot of credit. They shot the tar out of the ball in the (first) half.”

Playing in front of a near-sellout crowd of 3,475, Westminster played fearlessly in the early going, jumping out to a 13-8 lead five minutes into the game. The Blue Jays led by five points on four different occasions during the first half, the last time at 28-23 with just under six minutes remaining in the first half.

“Our guys played about as hard as they could. The guys were focused and didn’t lack confidence,” Westminster coach Matt Mitchell said. “We did things that we’ve never done as long as I’ve been here defensively, trying to get Hope our of their rhythm.”

But Hope came on strong to close the end of the half, outscoring Westminster 18-4 with Snuggerud scoring the final six points to take a 41-32 halftime lead.

In the second half, Snuggerud scored 16 of Hope’s first 20 points as the Flying Dutchmen opened up a 61-44 lead with 13 minutes remaining. He finished the game 16 of 21 from the field, and his 37 points was the second-most by a Hope player in an NCAA tournament game, topped only by Joel Holstege’s 39 points against Rowan, N.J. in the 1996 national championship game.

“I don’t think I could have picked a better night to do this,” Snuggerud said. “We were struggling, and we need someone to get things going.”

Westminster closed to within nine points twice midway through the second half, but could get no closer.

Hope shot 50 percent from the field (31 of 62) and outrebounded Westminster 41-25.

David Krombeen added 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists for Hope, while Peter Bunn added 11 points, six rebounds and five assists. Verdis Lee led the Blue Jays with 19 points, and Kurt Kovach added 15.