Losing 'stinks,' says Hope coach whose team lost for first time in 1,061 days

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

OK, it's been a minute — actually, 1,527,840 of them.

But, no, Brian Morehouse didn't forget the feeling of losing.

"I'm reminded," Morehouse, the Hope women's basketball head coach, said late Wednesday night, "it still stinks as much as it did before."

Hope College coach Brian Morehouse.

For the first time in 1,061 days, Division III juggernaut Hope has lost a game, falling to Trine University, 70-62, on Wednesday night at DeVos Fieldhouse in Holland.

Hope, the top-ranked team in the nation, had won 61 games in a row, the longest active streak in the nation at any level, men's or women's. It was tied for the third-longest streak in Division I women's history.

And now it's over, thanks to Trine, the No. 4-ranked team in the country, which gave Hope a scare in their first meeting of the season, Dec. 18, too, before Hope pulled away for a 70-61 victory.

That game marked the only other time Hope played a game decided by single digits, before Wednesday; excluding that first meeting, Hope's average margin of victory this season is more than 49 points.

But on Wednesday, Trine handed Hope its first halftime deficit of the season and held serve.

"We didn't play well, and we lost to a really good team," Morehouse said. "They shot it well, and we, boy, we did not shoot it well.

"There's never a good time for a loss, in my opinion. I don't think you learn nearly as much from a loss as what the average fan thinks you do from them.

"I think you can learn from winning. It doesn't just have to be losing."

Not that Morehouse and his Flying Dutch have much experience losing.

The last loss for Hope (16-1) came March 2, 2019, in the Division III NCAA Tournament. It didn't lose either of the last two seasons but has no national championships to show for the run, so far, because the last two Division III NCAA Tournaments were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Junior guard Meg Morehouse (Zeeland) had 14 points for Hope on Wednesday, while senior guard Sydney Muller (Grand Rapids) had 10 points and junior forward Savannah Feenstra had 10 rebounds.

Hope trailed, 36-26, at halftime, and Morehouse acknowledge the players might've been shellshocked. Hope trailed by 13 to start the fourth quarter, but battled back to within two points with 44 seconds remaining. But Trine made its next six free throws to pull away. 

That was the story most of the night. When Hope would have a little spurt, Trine would make the big basket, particularly from 3-point range. Trine was 10-for-22 from 3's, for a 45.5% clip.

"We really died by the 3," Morehouse said. "They hit a bunch of backbreakers at big times."

Trine (13-2) was led by senior guard Tara Bieniewicz (Macomb Dakota), who had 18 points; senior guard Rachel Stewart scored 16 and senior guard Kayla Wildman (Rockford) had 10 points.

Hope gets its first crack to start a new streak Saturday, with a game at Albion.

First up is a return to practice Thursday and Friday. Thursday, Morehouse said, would be the time to address the team more in-depth than he did in the locker room following Wednesday's game. It was a quiet locker room, he acknowledged, and a couple players spoke. 

But there wasn't some big scene.

Coaches and players didn't linger too long. They rarely do.

"Nobody came here for a streak. Nobody enrolled in Hope College for a streak," said Morehouse, who's in his 26th season on the job. "We enrolled to be around people we care about and to develop a true team. We didn't recruit to do a streak.

"Winning is hard and being good every single day in practice is hard. Being good that many games in a row is a process. This team is significantly better than we were when we started this streak. That just goes to really speak to their improvement and their desire to not stand pat and to improve every single day.

"It's time for us to get better and learn from this. 

"I believe in this team."

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Twitter: @tonypaul1984