Bluffton 85, Millikin 76
Beavers move into McDonald's final with 85-76 win over Millikin
By: Brandy Bidlack, sports information assistant
December 28, 2007
BLUFFTON, Ohio - An impressive night of free throw shooting gave Bluffton the edge over Millikin in the first round of the McDonald's of Bluffton Holiday Tournament by a final score of 85-76 on Friday, December 28, 2007. With the win, Bluffton improved to 7-4 on the season, while Millikin dropped to 6-2, landing the Beavers in the championship game for the sixth consecutive season.
Bluffton started the contest with a layin from junior Nick Wilson (Continental/Continental). P.J. Juenger (Loveland/Archbishop Moeller) hit the first triple for the Beavers, tying the score 5-5 at the 17:52 mark.
The Big Blue took over the lead for the next six minutes despite two blocks from Wilson. Jordan Pothast (Ottawa/Ottawa-Glandorf) found Justin Rufenacht (Wauseon/Pettisville) for a layup. Zack Kraus (Findlay/Findlay) chipped in two points to even the score at 15 with just under 12 minutes left in the first half.
Aaron Taylor (Antwerp/Antwerp) hit a trey thanks to an assist from Josh Eichar (North Baltimore/North Baltimore), giving Bluffton an 18-16 lead. With 10:17 left in the first half, Colt Cunningham (Powell/Worthington Christian) sank a three-pointer to increase the Beavers' advantage to 21-18.
Freshman Ben Shindeldecker (Ohio City/Crestview) added two more points to the Beaver tally, while two made free throws by Zack Kraus allowed Bluffton to extend its lead to five points, 35-30, at the break.
Millikin hit a three-pointer to start the second half, but Bluffton responded with 12-0 run, including a trey from Juenger, and layups by Kraus and Cunningham. At the 17:28 mark, Josh Eichar stole the ball and went coast-to-coast, giving the Beavers an extra boost of momentum.
Jordan Pothast chipped in two more points following a dish from Taylor, making the score 47-33 as Bluffton out-pointed Millikin 12-3 during the first three minutes of period two.
Aaron Taylor converted his drive into a three-point play by making the free throw at the 13:22 mark. Millikin retaliated with an 8-0 run, including consecutive triples by Dana Givens which forced the Beavers into a timeout.
P.J. Juenger responded with a layup, making the score 58-50 shortly after the timeout. Millikin fouls transformed into free throws for Bluffton throughout much of the next nine minutes. With less than four minutes left in the game, Taylor added two more points with a spin move leading to a jumper, giving Bluffton a nine-point lead, 75-66.
Millikin cut the deficit to just five points, 79-74, before Zack Kraus drove to the hole at the 1:32 mark. With less than a minute on the clock, Cunningham and Taylor picked up two freebies apiece to make the final score 85-76 in favor of the host team.
Colt Cunningham and Aaron Taylor led the Beavers with 15 points each, and Taylor also dished out a game-high six assists. Zack Kraus chipped in 14 points while P.J. Juenger added 14 points, including two three-pointers. Juenger snatched seven boards in the victory. Nate Overmyer (Payne/Wayne Trace) contributed 10 points, and Josh Eichar added four points, three assists, two rebounds, and two steals. Wilson had three points and a career-high three blocks in tonight's contest.
Tunde Ogunleye led the Big Blue with 18 points and three steals. John Harmsen and Dana Givens, who finished with 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting off the bench, both sank three treys for Millikin.
Millikin hit 9-for-20 (45 percent) from behind the arc, compared to only 5-of-17 (29.4 percent) for Bluffton. The Beavers were 25-of-53 from the field for 47 percent, but it was the 90 percent free throw shooting in the second half that propelled them to a win as Bluffton buried 30-of-35 at the stripe while Millikin went to the line only 20 times.
The Bluffton University men's basketball team will return to action on Saturday, Dec. 29, when the Beavers play in the championship of the McDonald's of Bluffton Holiday Tournament against Ohio Dominican. The contest is slated to tip at 3 p.m., following the Concordia and Millikin consolation game which is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. in Founders Hall.