Hot-shooting Pioneers roll to 102-71 victory over Hope

More news about: Marietta

MARIETTA, Ohio — Marietta College coach Jon VanderWal had serious concerns about his basketball team heading into the Great Lakes Invitational.

Most of his fears were quickly erased as the Pioneers (1-0) crushed Hope 102-71 at Ban Johnson Arena Friday night in front of a favorable crowd of 1,472. It was Marietta's 38th-consecutive regular-season home victory.

"I'm pretty thrilled with how we played. We had some question marks going into tonight. We know we have a talented team," VanderWal said. "We can go with all kinds of lineups. That's also been challenging in the preseason because we haven't found an identity. Practice the past week, or so we haven't been killing it either. All of us were kind of wondering how we were going to play tonight."

It appears all Marietta needed was a home regular-season game to find its rhythm. The 13th-ranked Pioneers shot 59.7 percent from the field and 52 percent from behind the three-point line for the lopsided win.

Leading the way was junior forward Anthony Wallace, who had 20 points and four rebounds.

"Coach always tells us that we have six or seven guys who can score 20 or more points in a game," Wallace said. "Tonight, (Hope's) Jason Beckman pushed me. He's a great player, and he made me competitive tonight."

Beckman sparked Hope (0-1) early in the game with four three-point baskets in the first half that helped the Flying Dutch build a 27-23 lead with 9:02 to play. From that point on, though, Marietta outscored Hope 34-13 to take a 57-40 lead into intermission.

"A lot of credit goes to Marietta for shooting the ball the way they did," said Hope coach Greg Mitchell. "I would say we contributed to that for not being as sharp as we needed. I thought the energy was good, but as soon as it got to a two- to three-basket disadvantage, we started looking for a six-point shot."

Beckman finished with 26 points, including a perfect 6-of-6 from the foul line.

"It's a testament to Marietta. We want to play that comfortable on offense and defense and have this type of atmosphere," Beckman said. "They set the benchmark of where we want to be."

Interestingly, VanderWal said Hope has been the standard-bearer for Division III men's basketball.

"I have a ton of respect for Hope and admire what they've accomplished. It's a first-class operation," he said. "Hope's the standard in Division III basketball. Over the last seven years, we feel we've been a program like that."

In the second half, Marietta made a statement by not letting up and building its lead by outscoring the Flying Dutch 45-31. VanderWal was also able to get quality playing time for 11 guys.

Junior Kyle Dixon had 17 points and seven rebounds, while sophomore Caleb Hoyng and junior Avery Williams each added 14 points. Junior DeVaughn Wingard added 13 points. Senior point guard Dillon Young dished out six assists to go with five points.

"For us, over the Canada trip and a scrimmage we let teams back in games," Dixon said. "We really pushed that lead (against Hope). We were really focusing on that. When it got to a 20-point lead, we were trying to win every single possession. This is definitely one of the most special openers that we've had since I've been here."

Mitchell was impressed with what he saw from the Pioneers.

"We have to be better, but I have a lot of respect for what Marietta does and how they play. We were a step off tonight, and you can't lose your poise. We tried to jump out of our skin and make plays that we can't. Our guys have to do the simple things well."

Junior forward Dennis Towns had a solid night with 11 points and seven rebounds, while junior guard Teddy Ray added 10 points. Hope did lose senior guard Dante Hawkins in the first half with what appeared to be a wrist injury.

"A basketball season is a marathon. We're going to learn and stay together," Mitchell said. "We can't wait to play tomorrow."

Hope committed an unusually high 20 turnovers, while Marietta only coughed it up 10 times while getting 20 assists.

"Basketball is such a game of swings, when you get a decent lead and we try like heck to play defense the same way we got there. Let up for a second it only takes a play or two to ignite the other team," VanderWal said. "We took Hope's best shot and survived, and then we tend to wear people down. This feels no different than an NCAA Tournament game. It's kind of a crazy way to open up the season."