bc vs. msj
Bluffton College hosts The College of Mount St. JosephGame date: Saturday, December 14
Game time: 3:00 p.m.
By Tim Stried
Setting the scene
Both these teams did not have a mid-week game this past week and are coming off league losses last Saturday. Bluffton begins a four-game home stand Saturday, while MSJ is beginning a three-game road trip. These two teams will meet again on Feb. 1 in Cincinnati.
The series (MSJ leads 7-1)
Mount St. Joseph won the first seven meetings over Bluffton before the Beavers' 96-90 win over the Lions here in Founders Hall last January 26.
Bluffton is led by 14th-year head coach Guy Neal, who ranks fourth on the BC all-time wins list with 137 victories. He is closing in on leaders Ken Mast (140), A.C. Burcky (141) and Glenn Snyder (150) and Neal's six winning seasons are second only to Burcky's total of seven. Mount St. Joseph is led by 5th-year head coach Larry Cox. Cox helped start the men's basketball program at MSJ four years ago and has an overall record of 58-51. Coach Cox started his coaching career at Thomas More College where he guided TMC to four straight winning seasons after the Saints had not had a winning season in a decade.
Bluffton is now 2-5 overall on the season and is looking to snap a 3-game losing skid Saturday. Two of those losses include BC's first two HCAC games, which both were against the league's top two teams (Manchester and Hanover). The Beavers are 1-2 at home this season. Mount St. Joseph is 5-2 overall and 1-1 in the HCAC. One of the Lions' losses was to Division I Eastern Kentucky University and the other was at home against Anderson University last Saturday.
Senior Mike Leimeister tied his career scoring high with 36 points but Bluffton fell 88-70 at 16th-ranked Hanover College last Saturday. Leimeister scored 25 points in the first half and finished the day 13-for-21 from the floor and 3-for-6 from behind the arc to notch his seventh career 30+ point game, which ranks third all-time at BC for the most career 30+ point games. He was the only Beaver in double-figures and he added a game-high eight rebounds. Senior Marcus Bixler added nine points and junior Brad Boyles chipped in eight.
Mount St. Joseph, meanwhile, led 42-36 at halftime at home against Anderson last Saturday, but AU came back to take a 85-74 win over the Lions. Streaky shooting proved to be the difference as MSJ shot 52% in the first half and was 6-for-13 from 3-point range to build their lead, while Anderson shot just 36.1% during that time. In the second half, however, AU shot 54.5% from the floor while the Mount shot 43.8% and was 2-for-15 from behind the arc. Tom Luther led the Lions with 20 points and 11 rebounds, while E.J. Engelkamp and Mike Mahon each had 17 points.
Senior Mike Leimeister, who scored 31 points in the win over MSJ here last year and was a first-team All-HCAC selection, leads the HCAC in scoring at 23.6 points per game and ranks third in rebounding with 9.2 rebounds per game. Two other BC players are also averaging in double-figures, including junior Brad Boyles (11.6 ppg) and senior Derek DeNero (10.9 ppg). Boyles' .588 shooting percentage ranks 5th in the HCAC. Senior Marcus Bixler leads the HCAC in steals (2.7 spg) and he ranks 3rd in assists (4.0 apg). He is averaging 7.4 points per game, while sophomore Bryce Beilharz ranks 5th on the team in scoring at 6.4 points per game.
Mount St. Joseph leaders
Junior Tom Luther is leading the Lions this season with 21.3 points per game (3rd in HCAC), 10.1 rebounds per game (1st in HCAC) and shooting percentage at .598 (3rd in HCAC). Sophomore Chris Washington ranks 7th in the HCAC in scoring (16.3 ppg) and 2nd in free throw percentage (.903), while sophomore Mike Mahon ranks 3rd in the HCAC with 19 made 3-pointers.
Bluffton's edge in shooting could be a factor in today's game. BC is shooting .465 from the field this season (4th in HCAC), while MSJ is allowing their opponents to shoot .483 from the field against them (7th in HCAC). 3-point shooting is neither team's strength, as MSJ ranks 7th in the HCAC from behind the arc (.315) and Bluffton ranks 8th (.312). If the game comes down to free throws, Bluffton will again have the edge as the Beavers rank 3rd in the HCAC (.731) from the line, while the Lions rank 8th (.667). The Mount ranks third in the HCAC in turnover margin (+4.4), while Bluffton ranks 6th (+0.6).
HCAC p-o-w honorable mentions
Last week's Heartland Conference player-of-the-week honor went to Transylvania's Jimmy Kosieniak, while Bluffton's Mike Leimeister and MSJ's Tom Luther were both honorable mention honorees. Leimeister combined for 63 points and 15 rebounds in two HCAC games last week.
Common opponents this season
One common opponent appears on both team's schedule so far this season, that being Earlham College. Bluffton won at Earlham 72-68 on Nov. 26, while the Mount hosted Earlham on Nov. 30 and won 77-64.
3-point streak continues
Bluffton has made at least one 3-point field goal in 249 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 284-262 in Founders Hall since the facility opened in 1952. BC is 59-44 in Founders Hall since the start of the 1993-94 season.
Home for the holidays good for BC
Since the start of the 1996-97 season, Bluffton is 20-5 in Founders Hall in the month of December. BC was 19-1 at home in December from 1996-97 through 2000-01, but is 1-4 in their last five games.
Around the HCAC
Elsewhere around the Heartland Conference Saturday, Defiance hosts Hanover and Transylvania hosts Manchester. In non-conference action, Anderson travels and Thomas More and Franklin is hosting a weekend tournament.