2001-02 Men's Basketball
Win over Defiance tops list
Neal ranks win over Defiance as top highlight of career in Founders Hall
By Tim Stried
February 15, 2002
Bluffton College head basketball coach Guy Neal knows a few things about winning. In his 13 seasons at BC, he has guided the Beavers to 134 victories, but perhaps none were bigger than Wednesday's 106-103 last-second win over Defiance College in Founders Hall.
"That has to rank as the best game I've been a part of in my 13 years here at Bluffton College and in Founders Hall," said Neal after the smoke had cleared from the pandemonium that erupted when junior Derek DeNero connected on a 32-foot shot at the buzzer to give BC a win in the final home game of the season.
"I was very proud of our players," said Neal. "They played very hard and I was very happy for them that they got to experience a win like that. Any time you have kids that compete and commit to a team and play hard and work hard, it's rewarding to then get a chance to experience something like that. The atmosphere was great and I know that was a big help."
And not only did Bluffton play very hard, they played very well. Bluffton shot 58% from the floor and even better from 3-point range as BC connected on 13-of-21 attempts (62%) from behind the arc. BC's halftime point total (61) and game total (106) were both season-highs, and the Beavers overcame a 10-point second half deficit to notch their tenth win of the season.
"The Manchester game in 1995 would rank second," said Neal, "and the win over Ohio Northern, the year after they won the national championship, would rank third."
The second game on Neal's list occurred on Feb. 15 of the 1994-95 season when Bluffton hosted an undefeated Manchester College coached by Steve Alford and lost 78-76 as the Spartans sank a layup with no time left. The win over Ohio Northern was on Dec. 1, 1993 when the Beavers pulled off a 55-46 victory over the defending national champions.
The victory over Defiance on Wednesday was another stepping stone for the rebuilding of the BC men's basketball program, which finished 16-9 last season and just one game back of the HCAC regular season title, but lost seven of their top nine scorers.
"In coaching you have to have a combination of hard core realism and hard core optimism," said Neal. "You have to have a balance. Coming into this season, we understood what we lost from last year and what we had coming back for this year, and when you consider the league that we play in we realized that we could be in the beginning phase of a three or four year rebuilding process. We could have gone out this year and just won five games, but to have 10 wins already makes us very pleased with what we've been able to do."
Despite a 3-11 record in the HCAC, Bluffton has battled to the closing moments of nearly every game. With the exception of three lopsided losses on the road, the Beavers have been outscored by just 4.9 points per game against HCAC opponents this season.
"We've improved all season, especially since Christmas," said Neal. "Every game but three have been close and hard fought. I'm real proud and pleased at the progress we've made in January and February. The guys haven't quit. They've kept working and making progress."
The win over Defiance marked the fourth time in the past three seasons that the HCAC's top-ranked team has visited Founders Hall and gone home with a loss. BC first pulled off that feat on Jan. 19, 2000 with a 94-92 win over Franklin, then did it twice last season on back-to-back games as the Beavers defeated Manchester 94-87 on Jan. 10 and then upended Hanover 82-77 on Jan. 13.
"I think we've got the reputation now that we can knock off some good teams, especially on our home court," said Neal. "We're earning that respect. We have that capability now, especially at home. Our track record is starting to prove that."
And Wednesday night was all the proof one might need to know exactly what Neal is talking about.
"That's the kind of game that will stick with you for a lifetime," concluded Neal.
"They'll be talking about that win for years to come."