Calvin defeats Wisconsin-Lutheran
Verkaik scores 19 points to lead Knights into second round
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Playing in the nightcap of two NCAA tournament opening round games, Calvin recorded a 59-47 win against Wisconsin-Lutheran on Friday. Calvin will face Wisconsin-Stevens Point in a second-round game on Saturday.
The Knights, hosting the first two rounds, were winners of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and came into the game ranked fifth in the country and with a 25-1 overall record. Wisconsin-Lutheran, winners of the Northern Athletics Conference, came into the game with a 24-4 record.
Both teams played very tough defense early on, with the Warriors holding a 5-3 lead five minutes into the opening half. A 6-0 lead by Calvin gave the Knights the 9-5 lead. After a Wisconsin-Lutheran layup, Calvin junior guard Kelsey Irwin hit a 3-pointer to push Calvin’s advantage to 12-7. Ten early turnovers by the Warriors allowed Calvin to gain the advantage.
With 6:58 remaining, the Knights pushed their lead to 18-10 on a layup by junior Ally Wolffis. The Warriors responded with a 6-0 run to bring the score to 18-16 with 4:33 left in the half.
Four consecutive points by Calvin freshman Kayla Engelhard extended the Knights lead to 22-16 before a Warriors free throw settled the score at 22-17 at halftime.
Engelhard led all scorers at the half with six points. Wolffis added five points for the Knights, while junior Julia Hilbrands grabbed six rebounds. The Warriors were led by freshman Kristen Schulz, who had four points and four rebounds at the break. Both teams struggled from 3-point range, the Warriors shooting 2-for-11 and Calvin shooting 1-for-9.
Out of the break, the Warriors tied up the game at 26-26 on a layup by Schulz three minutes in. With 13:02 left, a 3-point shot by Calvin senior guard Jill Thomas gave the Knights the largest lead of the second half at 37-29.
Wisconsin-Lutheran senior Rachel Johnson hit back-to-back jumpers with seven minutes remaining to cut the Warriors deficit to 42-39. The Knights responded with an 8-0 run to build the largest lead of the game at 50-39 with 3:38 remaining.
The Warriors closed the gap to 54-45 with just over a minute remaining, but the Knights iced the game at the free-throw line, hitting 5-of-6 in the last minute en route to a 59-47 victory.
The Knights were led on offense by junior and Jostens Trophy nominee Carissa Verkaik, who scored 19 points and added five rebounds. Engelhard scored 14 points to go with five boards, while Julia Hilbrands chipped in seven points and nine rebounds.
“[Wisconsin-Lutheran] gave us a ton of trouble in the first half. They did a great job of shutting down Carissa, Ally, and Julia, and putting a lot of pressure on our guards,” Knights head coach John Ross said. “I think we really clamped down, in the second half, and we did a really good job of getting Carissa the ball in places where she could score.”
Wisconsin-Lutheran was led by Schulz, who scored 10 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, and blocked four shots. Johnson added 12 points and seven rebounds, while junior Shavon Dillon scored nine points.
“I thought we out-rebounded them, we hustled -- I thought we did a great job at that. We had a little stretch where if we made a couple shots I think we really would have put the pressure on them. Down the stretch, they went on a little bit of a run and we couldn’t fight back,” Warriors head coach Klay Knueppel said.
The Warriors are in their second consecutive tournament, and have a relatively young squad.
“We are building something, hopefully, that will be special,” Knueppel said. “We want to go farther than we are getting now. I think Rachel [Johnson] and [past players] have done a good job of building a nice winning tradition at Wisconsin-Lutheran College.”