Bluffton 58, Hanover 57
Wilson's 30-footer with two ticks gives Bluffton 58-57 win at Hanover
By: Aaron Mass, sports information assistant
January 10, 2009
HANOVER, Ind. - The Bluffton University men's basketball team somehow managed to escape Collier Arena at Hanover College with yet another narrow victory, 58-57, over the Panthers on Saturday, January 10, 2009. Just like the Beaver victory at home versus Transy three days ago, this contest was decided by a Nick Wilson (Continental) basket in the closing seconds.
Bluffton senior captain Colt Cunningham (Powell/Worthington Christian) calmly banged home a clutch jumper to tie the game at 55 with 47 seconds remaining. Hanover center Dan O'Leary gave the home team a 57-55 advantage on two makes from the charity stripe with just 18 seconds on the clock. Bluffton then had trouble getting a good look as Cunningham dribbled toward the lane and had nowhere to go with the clock winding down. He passed to Wilson, whose 30-foot prayer was answered with 2.0 seconds to go, giving the Beavers another thrilling conference victory. The Panthers were then unable to get off a possible game-winner and the Bluffton players celebrated their incredible victory.
The shot by Wilson was the second game-winner for the senior in as many games. In both instances, the Beavers were down on the scoreboard and needed a basket. Wednesday versus Transy, Bluffton was down one, and today at Hanover the Beavers were down two before Wilson's late heroics.
The win was the fourth in a row for the Beavers who improved to 10-4 overall and 4-1 in the conference, tying them with Anderson University for second place. The Panthers are now 4-10, and 1-5 in the HCAC.
Hanover got on the board first on a layup by Billy Pappas. Bluffton knotted the game at two on a layup by junior point guard Josh Eichar (North Baltimore). The Beavers took their first lead of the ballgame when Cunningham dialed long distance, making the score 7-6 Bluffton with 15:35 to go.
Wilson tied the game at 10 on his own trifecta. Hanover hit a bucket on the ensuing possession and held the lead for a span of 7:34. During that time-frame, however, Hanover's largest lead was only five points (24-19) with 6:30 left in the opening stanza.
Bluffton responded by scoring six straight points on long balls from Cunningham and fellow senior Aaron Taylor (Antwerp). The Beavers' 25-24 lead at 4:20 marked the first time they were on top since the score was 7-6.
The teams then traded jumpers. Hanover hit two free throws and another jumper for a 30-27 lead with only 1:14 to go in the first period. Justin Rufenacht (Wauseon/Pettisville) scored to bring Bluffton within one, but the Beavers fouled with one tick left, and Hanover hit 1-of-2 free throws to take a 31-29 halftime lead. Their two-point advantage was thanks to 13 points from the bench and 11 second chance points.
The Panthers' Jake Inman was true on a jumper following a Bluffton turnover to start the second half. The score remained close until Taylor hit his second trey of the night to bring the Beavers within one (35-34). He then hit from the paint while getting fouled. Although he missed the free throw, Bluffton had a 36-35 lead at 16:43 of the second half.
Taylor yet again gave the visitors the lead after being down for a few minutes. The senior forward's two freebies put Bluffton narrowly back on top, 41-40, with 14:10 on the clock. Hanover hit a pair of two-pointers, by O'Leary and Inman, to go back ahead 44-41. Senior center Josiah Stober (Spencerville) converted a stickback to again bring Bluffton within one (44-43), causing the former Defiance mentor, Coach Miller, to call timeout with 9:42 left.
The timeout proved effective as the home squad went on a 7-2 run, which was huge in this tight contest. The run consisted of a dunk by the Panthers' Mitchell Meyer, and then he knocked down a jumper, for four of his game-high 18 points. At that point, Hanover held the largest lead of the game by either team (51-45) with 5:52 to go.
Eichar and Inman traded jumpers, then Wilson dropped a dime to Taylor to cut the Beaver deficit to four, 53-49. Bluffton simply refused to give up. 25 seconds later, Hanover turned it over and the Beavers capitalized with a deep rainbow from Stober off a Cunningham pass. The score was 53-52 with the Panthers ahead and the clock reading 3:38. An exciting finish was in the making.
Neither team scored for the next 1:54, mainly because of a few turnovers and a swat by Stober. With 1:44 remaining in the contest, Meyer got to the rack on Inman's assist for a 55-52 Panther lead. 20 seconds later, O'Leary fouled Wilson while he was attempting a three, sending the senior to the charity stripe for three tosses. The senior hit just 1-of-3 and O'Leary redeemed himself by snaring the board.
Hanover used a little bit of the shot clock, but missed a jumper that could have given them a four-point lead with 1:05 left. Taylor went up high for a huge defensive rebound and Coach Neal called timeout with his Beavers trailing 55-53 and 58 seconds left. Eichar found Cunningham for a two-point jumper to knot the game at 55 with 47 seconds to go, setting up the second consecutive wild ending for Bluffton.
Bluffton shot better from the floor than the Panthers, as the visitors drained 23-of-45 (51.1 percent) compared to Hanover making 24-of-53 (45.3 percent). The Panthers made three more from the line than Bluffton, but the Beavers shot it well from behind the arc. Bluffton was 8-of-15 (53.3 percent) and Hanover was only 2-of-11 (18.2 percent) from distance. The home team won a close battle on the boards (30-27), including 11 offensive. Bluffton turned it over 16 times and Hanover took care of the ball better with only 11 miscues.
This intense Heartland Conference battle saw 11 lead changes and six ties.
Hanover had only one player reach double digit in the scoring column. Forward Mitchell Meyer tallied 18 points on a solid 8-of-12 night from the floor. The next highest scorers were Jake Inman and Mike Case with eight points apiece. Dane Coats led the Panthers with six boards.
The visiting Beavers had three players reach double figures, all seniors. Cunningham and Taylor both had 17 points. Taylor's five boards were tops for the team. Again the hero, Wilson had 13 points. His game-winner was his first field goal in over seven minutes. The experienced trio made 18 of the Beavers' 23 field goals, while also combining for 7-of-11 from three-point range. Eichar led Bluffton with four assists and three steals.
The Bluffton University men have two road HCAC battles next on the schedule, starting Wednesday, January 14, at Anderson University against a talented Ravens' squad that is tied with Bluffton for second place at 4-1 in the conference. The contest is slated to tip at 7:30 p.m.