Bluffton goes 1-1 in two HCAC thrillers; preps for Anderson here SaturdayFebruary 3, 2003
By Tim Stried
|Special to: The Bluffton News (Feb. 6), The Witmarsum (Feb. 7), Alumni e-newsletter (Feb. 4), but you read it here first.
In two down-to-the-wire games last week, the Bluffton College men's basketball team earned a win at Mount St. Joseph Saturday and dropped an overtime thriller at Manchester Wednesday.
The Beavers, winners of three of their last five games, are now 9-11 overall and 3-7 in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference.
"Since about the middle of December we've been getting better each week," said head coach Guy Neal Monday. "We're playing more to our potential now and we're to the point where we're in every league game and we're giving ourselves a chance to win."
Bluffton will have a rare mid-week bye this week before returning to action at home Saturday at 3 p.m. against Anderson University (13-6 overall, 6-3 HCAC). With five days of practice before that game, Bluffton has an opportunity to work on a number of things.
"Typically in a bye week you put in a few new wrinkles and focus on the conditioning," said assistant coach Blake Kindle. "The first couple days we'll just concentrate on us and our entire program, then we'll start looking at Anderson on Wednesday."
Senior Mike Leimeister continues to lead the HCAC in scoring at 23.0 points per game, while senior Marcus Bixler (9.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg) ranks 2nd in the HCAC in assists (4.3 apg) and 4th in free throw percentage (.810), steals (1.7 spg), 3-point percentage (.443) and assist-to-turnover ration (1.43).
Feb. 1: BC 79, MSH 76
Bluffton shot over 57% from 3-point range and overcame a 12-point first half deficit to knock off The College of Mount St. Joseph 79-76 in Cincinnati Sat. afternoon.
The win was Bluffton's first in five trips to The Harrington Center as the Beavers get back into the win column after dropping two straight. Senior Marcus Bixler scored 14 points in the second half and ended the game with a team-high 19 points as he was a perfect 3-for-3 from 3-point range to lead the Beavers, which made 12-of-21 shots from trey land and forced 19 Lion turnovers.
Bluffton scored the last nine points before halftime but still trailed 33-32 at the break. The two teams traded the lead back and forth to begin the second half before Bluffton went on a 10-2 run mid-way through the second half to take a nine-point lead at 60-51 with 8:37 remaining in the game. That lead would eventually grow to 11, but The Mount came back in the final minute to trail by one point at 77-76 with seven seconds to play. Bixler made a pair of free throws at that point, however, and the Lions missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Leimeister added 16 points and a game-high nine rebounds, and freshman Scott Bergman scored 14 points. Senior Derek DeNero chipped in 11 points and freshman Darren Clark, who took a key charge with 24 seconds left in the game, finished with eight points.
Jan. 29: BC 76, MC 79 (ot)
Leimeister's 3-pointer with 28 seconds left in regulation forced overtime, where host Manchester out-scored the Beavers 17-11 to earn a 79-73 win last Wed. night.
Bluffton led by four points at halftime and again by four points with 7:49 left to play in regulation, but an 8-0 run by Manchester soon after that gave the Spartans a four-point lead with under four minutes remaining. Leimeister, who ended the game with a team-high 20 points, scored Bluffton's last five points in regulation, including the 3-pointer, but Manchester went 9-for-10 from the free throw line in overtime and connected on a pair of 3-pointers.
Leimeister added a game-high 12 rebounds, which ties his career-high and gives him his eighth career double-double. DeNero scored 17 points and Bixler added 10.
The Beavers connected on 8-of-16 treys in the game, including a perfect 3-for-3 in the first half and out-rebounded Manchester 35-32, but the Spartans held Bluffton to a 36.4% shooting effort in the second half to come from behind for the win. BC had been 5-2 when leading at the half and 1-0 in overtime games, but the Spartans hung on to notch their fifth win in a row, while Bluffton drops its second straight after winning two in a row.