Anderson 62, Bluffton 47 (HCAC Tourney)
Bluffton bows out of HCAC tourney with 62-47 loss to Anderson
By: Aaron Mass, sports information assistant
February 24, 2009
BLUFFTON, Ohio - The Bluffton University men's basketball team was unable to capitalize on its first home HCAC tournament game in eight seasons, as it lost to Anderson University in Founders Hall on February 24, 2009, by a final score of 62-47. The loss at home marked the end of an era for the winningest class in Bluffton men's basketball history. The 2009 five-man senior class of Colt Cunningham (Powell/Worthington Christian), Justin Rufenacht (Wauseon/Pettisville), Josiah Stober (Spencerville), Aaron Taylor (Antwerp), and Nick Wilson (Continental) ended their careers with a cumulative record of 63-41 (.606 winning percentage), a group that will not be forgotten anytime soon on the Bluffton University campus.
The Beavers ended their school-record fifth consecutive winning season with a mark of 15-11 overall. The win for Anderson University snapped a six-game skid as it improved to 15-11 overall. The Ravens will now travel to face conference regular-season champion Transy in the HCAC tournament semi-finals.
Despite a raucous crowd of nearly 1,000 on "Beaver Fever" night in Founders Hall, the home team never held a lead in the contest. Bluffton had its lowest point total as a team all season and the first time it did not reach the 50-point barrier. The Beavers scored just two field goals in the game's first 10:23. Those two makes were a three-pointer by Nick Wilson and a layup by Aaron Taylor. At that point the visitors already led by a score 15-5.
Bluffton could not get closer than six points for the rest of the opening half. Cunningham's trey with 6:01 remaining made this low-scoring affair 21-15 in favor of Anderson. However, the Ravens came back with five straight points. The bleeding slowed when Taylor found Cunningham, who drilled a 25-footer just before the buzzer, to make the score 28-21 in favor of the Ravens at halftime.
Bluffton shot just 8-of-22 (36.3 percent) in the opening half, while Anderson hit on 13-for-27 (48.1 percent). The Beavers turned it over 10 times in the first stanza as opposed to just three by the Ravens.
At the start of the second half, senior Nick Wilson plowed his way inside for an old-fashioned three-point play. That made the score 28-24 in favor of the visitors, and was the closest the Beavers had been since the score was 4-0 Anderson. However, Bluffton never got any closer during the remainder of the contest.
Meanwhile, Anderson was running off seven straight points on shots by three different players. Taylor's three free throws and a Cunningham triple cut the Beavers' deficit to 35-30 with 12:03 to go. Again the Ravens would not let the home team make a run, as Anderson scored seven of the next nine to make the score 42-32 with 8:43 to play. Anderson's spurt was aided by a deep ball from Jordan Wiseman, as well as two assists from Wiseman to Andrew Jones.
Cunningham brought the Beavers to within seven following one of his five triples, making the score 42-35 with 8:15 to go. The senior captain had a game-high 17 points. Wiseman responded by burying another trey to keep it a 10-point game. Bluffton never got closer than nine points the rest of the way.
After that, the final 8:15 saw the Beavers make just 4-of-11 from the floor, while Anderson hit 5-of-6 from the field and a perfect 7-of-7 at the charity stripe. Bluffton cut it to eight with 2:21 left on Taylor's lone long ball on the night (53-45), but the Beavers then went scoreless until a short Cunningham jumper with just eight ticks left.
Bluffton was held under 50 points for the first time in its 26-game season. The Beavers shot just 16-of-48 from the floor (33.3 percent), also their lowest percentage of the season. That total included Bluffton hitting only 8-of-27 from beyond the arc (29.6 percent). Anderson's zone defense wreaked havoc on the Beavers' offense all night, as Bluffton was unable to consistently get the ball inside. The Ravens drained 25-of-47 from the floor (53.2 percent). Bluffton gave the ball away 15 times compared to just eight miscues by the visiting team.
Bluffton had the game's two highest scorers, both seniors playing in their final D-III collegiate game. Colt Cunningham led all scorers with 17 points and Aaron Taylor was right behind with 16. Bluffton's next highest scorer was six points. The Ravens had three players in double figures, led by Jordan Wiseman's 13 points and a game-high nine rebounds. Mike Russell also had 13, and Andrew Jones chipped in 12 points and a game-high four assists.
This year's Bluffton squad ended the season with a 15-11 record, including a 9-7 regular season mark in the HCAC. This marked the fifth consecutive winning season for Bluffton, adding to its record which was established last season. The last time the Beavers did not have a winning season was back in 2003-04. Anderson will now play top-seed Transylvania on Friday, February 27, 2009. That contest will tip at 8 p.m. on Transy's home court, the Beck Center.