2002-03 Men's Basketball
bc vs. tmc
Bluffton to host Thomas More Saturday in regular season finaleBy Tim Stried
February 20, 2003
Setting the scene
Bluffton College hosts Thomas More College Saturday in the Beavers' final game of the regular season. Bluffton will be traveling to Anderson University Tuesday night for a first round Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament game (live webcast available). Thomas More has already played its final home game of the season, that coming last Saturday in a 74-52 loss to #9 Hanover. The Saints traveled to Defiance Friday night (results unavailable at press time) and their six wins have surpassed their win total of six from last year. Bluffton, which is aiming to snap a three-game losing skid today has equaled its win total of 10 victories from a year ago. Seniors Marcus Bixler, Derek DeNero and Mike Leimeister will be honored with their parents prior to Saturday's game. That trio has started together in every game but one over the past two seasons for a streak that has spanned 49 of 50 games.
HCAC tournament tips-off Tuesday
Bluffton will travel to Anderson University Tuesday night for the first round of the Heartland Conference tournament. Tip-off time will most likely be at either 6 or 8 p.m., but has not been determined as of Thursday. A live webcast will available for the game on the BC men's basketball Web site. The Anderson women's team will also be hosting a first round tournament game that night.
The series (TM leads 18-9)
Thomas More leads the all-time series 18-9, which dates back to the 1989-90 season. Thomas More has won the last two meetings against Bluffton after the Beavers had won five straight games over the Saints prior to that. The two teams are tied at six wins each when playing in Founders Hall.
Bluffton is led by 14th-year head coach Guy Neal, who ranks second on the BC all-time wins list with 145 victories. Neal is closing in on leader Glenn Snyder, who won 150 games between 1968-85. Neal's six winning seasons are second only to Hall of Famer A.C. Burcky's total of seven. Thomas More is led by sixth-year head coach Terry Conner, who is a 1992 graduate of TMC and owns an overall record of 42-90 at the helm of the Saints program.
From the middle of December through the first week of February Bluffton went 8-5 to bring its season record up to 10-11, but the Beavers have dropped three straight games since then to see their record slip to 10-14 overall and 4-10 in the HCAC. Two of Bluffton's last four losses, however, have been in overtime. The Beavers are 6-6 at home this season. Thomas More's six wins are the most for the Saints since the 1998-99 season as TMC has now fashioned an overall record of 6-16. Thomas More is an independent member of NCAA Div. III but plays each HCAC member twice. So far TMC has collected four wins over HCAC members, including home wins over Bluffton, Franklin and Mt. St. Joseph plus a road win at Transylvania. The Saints are 2-7 on the road this season and their result at Defiance Friday night was unavailable at press time.
Leimeister nearing 1000 points
Bluffton senior Mike Leimeister is nearing the 1,000 career point total, as he now has 988 points, which ranks 22nd on the career scoring list. When he reaches the 1K total he'll become the 22nd player in the history of BC basketball to accomplish that feat. His point total is especially amazing considering that he scored a combined total of just two points as a freshman and sophomore, which will become the smallest point total in those two seasons of any of the other 21 players in the 1,000 point club. Before Leimeister, the player in the 1,000 point club to score the fewest amount of points as a freshman and sophomore was Jamie Yount, who scored 94 points those two seasons but went on to end his career with 1,054. Leimeister scored 450 points last season as a junior and has scored 536 so far this season, which is tied for the 7th-highest single-season output in BC history.
Bluffton out-shot and out-rebounded Defiance Wed. night, but the host Yellow Jackets scored 32 points off 28 Bluffton turnovers en route to an 85-72 win at Defiance's Karl H. Weaner Center. A season-high 1,600 fans saw Bluffton shoot 55.3% from the floor, compared to 46.7% for Defiance, and out-rebound the Jackets 31-29, but Defiance went on a 17-2 run mid-way through the first half en route to a 50-35 halftime lead that the Beavers were unable to overcome in the second half despite out-scoring DC 37-35 over the final 20 minutes. Mike Leimeister led Bluffton with 14 points as he moved closer to the 1,000 points mark for his career (see above) and tied his career-high with 12 rebounds to collect his 11th career double-double. Brad Boyles added 12 points and freshman Eric Sweet chipped in 10. Bluffton opened the game with a 9-2 run and led again by seven points at 14-7 with 15:33 left in the first half. Leimeister scored eight of those points, but was then held to six points over the remainder of the game. It was the first time in five career outings against the Yellow Jackets that Leimeister didn't score at least 30 points. On Jan. 22 Leimeister scored a career-high 42 points in Bluffton's 97-93 win over Defiance in Founders Hall.
BC at TMC earlier this season
Three Bluffton players scored 15 or more points and the Beavers shot 54.3% from the field, but Thomas More handed BC an 89-75 loss on Jan. 15 in Crestview Hill, Ky. Thomas More went to the free throw line 40 times in the game, converting on 32 of those free chances, and shot 56.3% from the field. Bluffton's Mike Leimeister and Derek DeNero combined for 28 points in the first half but were held to a combined total of eight points in the second half. They both ended with a game-high 18 points, while Brad Boyles came off the bench to score 15 points, with 10 of those coming in the second half. Bluffton scored the first eight points of the game but Thomas More scored the game's next 11 points to take the lead. In a back-and-forth first half, the score was either tied or changed leads 25 times before TMC took a 42-41 lead at halftime. The Saints led for most of the second half but Bluffton came back to take a brief one-point lead at 59-58 with 9:51 remaining. TMC then went on an 8-0 run to regain the lead and later a 9-3 run put the Saints up by 13 points with 1:29 to go. Not one Thomas More player was averaging in double-figures going into the game, but five Saints all scored in double-figures, led by 15 points from Chris Thompson.
These two teams split the season series last year as each team won on their home court. Bluffton won 93-90 here in Founders Hall on Jan. 9 as Derek DeNero had a career-best game with 29 points, 20 of which came in the second half, and 13 rebounds. Thomas More returned the favor, however, with an 88-80 win over the Beavers on Feb. 16 as five TMC players scored in double figures. The Saints shot the basketball extremely well in both contests (.537 here, .576 at TMC), while holding Bluffton under 45% shooting in both games.
Bluffton is led by its three seniors, Marcus Bixler, Derek DeNero and Mike Leimeister. That trio has combined to score 1,028 points so far at Bluffton, which is the most since the 1995-96 season when seniors Jeremy Best, Greg Liebrecht and Jon Kirkton combined to score 1,067. Leimeister's 22.3 points per game leads the HCAC and ranks 15th in the country, and his 8.5 rebounds per game ranks 2nd in the HCAC. DeNero (10.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg) is the one other BC player averaging in double figures, but close to it are junior Brad Boyles (9.9 ppg) and Bixler (9.6 ppg). Boyles leads the HCAC in field goal percentage (.625), while Bixler ranks 2nd in assists (4.1 apg), 3rd in steals (1.8 spg), 4th in free throw percentage (.806) and 5th in 3-point shooting percentage (.425). DeNero has hit a team-high 33 3-pointers, while Bixler has hit 31. Both are among the league's top-15 in 3-pointers made.
Bluffton freshmen making waves
Bluffton's 12-member freshman class has made an immediate impact this season. Of BC's top 10 scorers, five of them are freshmen, including Eric Sweet (5.5 ppg), Scott Bergman (4.8 ppg), Darren Clark (3.6 ppg), Simeon Talley (2.9 ppg) and Bryan Yelley (1.9 ppg). Each of those five players has scored in double figures at least once this season, and Sweet and Bergman have both already gone over the 100-point mark. The last time that Bluffton had more than one freshman score over 100 points in the same season was seven years ago during the 1995-96 campaign when three freshmen did it, including Greg Rawski (141), Nate Morris (139) and Dan Gudorf (113).
Thomas More leaders
The Saints returned their top two scorers this season from last year's squad, but so far it's freshman Chris Thompson who is leading TMC in scoring this season at 11.3 points per game. Senior Dustin Mulberry, who led TMC in scoring last year with 11.1 ppg, has come off the bench this season and is averaging 5.9 ppg. At Hanover last week he hit his school-record 136th 3-pointer. The Saints' other leading scorer from last season, Kyle Booth, has played in just six games this season and none recently. Sophomore Marcus Johnson (11.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 31 3-ptrs) is the other TMC player in double-figures this winter, while sophomore Chad Wachs (8.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg) leads the team in rebounding. Senior guard Mark Klein (7.4 ppg) leads the Saints in assists (75) and steals (49).
3-point streak continues
Bluffton has made at least one 3-point field goal in 266 consecutive games. The last time BC didn't make a 3-pointer was Jan. 6, 1993 when BC was 0-1 from behind the arc against Adrian in Founders Hall but won anyway 64-57.
Record in Founders Hall
Bluffton is now 289-266 (.521) in Founders Hall since the facility opened in 1952. Over the last 10 seasons, however, that winning percentage jumps to .571, as BC is 64-48 in Founders Hall since the start of the 1993-94 season.
Around the HCAC
Elsewhere around the Heartland Conference Saturday, Anderson hosts Hanover, Franklin hosts Transylvania and Manchester hosts Mount St. Joseph.