Bluffton 56, Transylvania 54
Bluffton wins 56-54 thriller over Transylvania in Founders
By, Aaron Mass, sports information intern
January 7, 2009
BLUFFTON, Ohio - The Bluffton University men's basketball team squeezed by Transylvania University 56-54 in Founders Hall on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009. The Beavers got a defensive stop as junior Josh Eichar (North Baltimore) snared a huge rebound and called a timeout with 17.1 seconds left. The Beavers were down one (54-53) at this crucial point of the game. With the clock ticking, Eichar hit senior Aaron Taylor (Antwerp) at the top of the key. Taylor found fellow senior Nick Wilson (Continental) cutting into the middle of the paint. As the defense converged, Wilson banked in a left-handed hook shot and was fouled with 2.7 seconds on the clock, sending the Beaver faithful into a frenzy and putting Bluffton back on top.
Wilson hit the ensuing free throw after a Transylvania timeout to give the home team a 56-54 lead. Coach Lane of Transylvania then called another timeout, as Transy had the ball underneath Bluffton's basket and 2.7 seconds still remaining on the clock. The Pioneers tried a deep pass just past half-court that was deflected by freshman Brent Farley (Lima/Shawnee) and then picked up by Eichar as the final buzzer sounded.
This intense HCAC battle that went right down to the wire improved Bluffton's record to 9-4 overall and 3-1 in the conference, while Transy was sent home with a mark of 8-4 and 2-2 in the HCAC.
Bluffton seemed to be on its way to a blowout victory in the first 6:23 of the ballgame. The Beavers jumped out to a 20-4 lead by making their first eight shots from the floor. Bluffton's offense was very much in sync, as it scored on four consecutive trips before the Pioneers even got on the scoreboard. The home team hit the scoring column when Josh Eichar stole the ball, leading to a layup by senior captain Justin Rufenacht (Wauseon/Pettisville) at the other end.
Senior center Josiah Stober (Spencerville) stepped outside and buried a three-ball the very next possesion. Stober then ripped down a rebound, which led to a jumper by Colt Cunningham (Powell/Worthington Christian). Stober then scored underneath on Rufenacht's pass, prompting a timeout by Transylvania with the score 9-0 at the 16:30 point of the opening half.
The Pioneers finally got on the board on a putback by Matthew Parton. The Beavers' hot shooting was not through yet. Bluffton hit three consecutive treys, including two by senior forward Aaron Taylor. Then, Farley got free to make the score 22-9 with 12:25 on the clock.
From there the visiting Pioneers clawed right back in the ballgame by scoring 11 straight points, while holding Bluffton scoreless over the next 3:56. Transy turned up its defensive pressure, leading to six Beaver miscues during the run. Transylvania's Blake McCowan scored in close, cutting his team's deficit to two points (22-20) at the 9:10 mark of the first half.
The home team held a slim lead for the next few minutes until a McCowan putback tied the game at 26. The score went back and forth until Cunningham drained two foul shots, tying the game at 30 with only 23 seconds to go in the first half. The Pioneers then held for the last shot, only to have it denied by Farley just before the buzzer sounded.
Transylvania outscored the Beavers 26-8 over the last 13:37 of the half, which included scoring 22 of its 30 first half points in the paint.
The second half began as Aaron Cash sank two free throws after a Beaver turnover. Bluffton responded as Eichar made a nice feed to junior guard Jordan Pothast (Ottawa/Ottawa-Glandorf) to tie the game at 32. The teams traded layups before Transylvania opened up its largest lead of the game (39-34) following a three by Matthew Parton.
Bluffton then scored five straight to tie it at 39. Pothast drove and kicked it to Eichar for a long ball. Wilson followed with a tip-in to tie it at the 12:53 mark. Both squads refused to give an inch at the defensive end, as the teams scored just 11 points each over the next 10 minutes.
Farley knotted the game at 50 with 3:07 left following a defensive rebound by Wilson. Tim Tierney hit a jumper off an inbounds play to put the visitors back on top. The Beavers refused to quit. With the shot clock winding down, Cunningham attacked the basket, jumped, and made a sweet dish to Wilson to tie the game once again with 2:04 left.
Eichar was whistled for a questionable foul near mid-court at 1:51. The Pioneers' Aaron Cash got to the rack and scored off the glass to give Transy a 54-52 lead with 1:24 to play.
Coach Neal then called timeout with 1:17 left. Wilson was fouled hard on a drive to the basket. He made the first of two free throws, cutting Bluffton's deficit to one point (54-53) with 58 seconds remaining in the intense conference battle.
Transylvania called timeout, but missed a shot in the paint with only 17.1 seconds left. Eichar got the board and called timeout before the exciting finish.
The teams shot nearly identical from the floor, with Wilson's bucket being the difference. The visitors shot 21-of-48 (43.8 percent) compared to 22-of-48 by the Beavers (45.8 percent). Bluffton made two more triples than Transy (6-4) and the teams combined to shoot only 17 free throws. The Beavers had 18 assists, compared to only 13 by the Pioneers.
Transylvania had three players finish with double digits in the low-scoring, physical battle. Forward Blake McCowan's double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds led the Pioneers. Tim Tierney had 10 points and six assists. Brock Jones popped off the bench to score 10 points as well.
Wilson not only hit the game-winner, but he also led all scorers with 13 points. The senior post-player paced Bluffton with nine rebounds. Eichar led the Beavers with five assists and he also ripped down eight caroms.
Bluffton University continues in HCAC action this Saturday when it travels south to face the Hanover Panthers on January 10, 2009. That game will tip at approximately 3 p.m. following the women's contest.