Hiram 74, Bluffton 61
Hiram hands Bluffton its third setback in six days, 74-61
By: Aaron Mass, sports information assistant
December 18, 2008
HIRAM, Ohio - The Bluffton University men's basketball team lost its second game in three days by a score of 74-61 to the Hiram College Terriers on Thursday, December 18, 2008. The Beavers' lackluster performance away from home this week dropped them to 6-4 after winning six straight. Hiram, a member of the NCAC, improved to 6-2 overall.
The home team came out with a high intensity level and scored the game's first seven points before a timeout by Coach Neal at the 16:19 mark. Senior Nick Wilson (Continental) followed a made free throw with a triple to get the Beavers on the scoreboard. Sophomore Rob Luderman (Defiance/Ayersville), making his first career start, hit two foul shots to make the score 7-6 at the 14:41 mark of the half.
Bluffton continued to trade hoops with the Terriers for virtually the remainder of the opening period. The Beavers came within one point on three occasions, but Bluffton could not forge ahead. An 11-10 Hiram lead turned into a 20-13 advantage when Chris Roberts scored seven consecutive points during a 9-2 run. His offensive prowess led to a game-high 28 points. Bluffton kept the score within reach by getting to the charity stripe. However, the visitors only managed to connect on 9-of-16 in the first half.
Wilson found senior Colt Cunningham (Powell/Worthington Christian) for a triple and Wilson then got to the cup to make the score 24-23 in favor of the home team at the 4:19 mark. The Beavers were plagued by turnovers all night, including four in the last 3:42 of the half. Also making his first career start was freshman point guard Nick Lee (Mount Blanchard/Vanlue). He fed Cunningham for a jumper with 38 seconds left in the half, again cutting the deficit to a single point (28-27) at intermission.
Roberts buried a jumper to start the second half, but senior Aaron Taylor (Antwerp) answered right back with a tip-in before Cunningham fired up the Beavers with a three-point play the old fashioned way on a dribble-drive to the rack giving Bluffton its first tie of the night. Ian Pfouts scored a layup at the other end. Nick Wilson was then fouled on a three-point attempt. He sank all three freebies to give Bluffton its first lead of the night, 39-38, with 15:48 still on the clock. The Beavers held a slim lead for the next 3:52.
Roberts hit another jumper to cut the Bluffton lead to 41-40 just 23 seconds later. Bluffton then responded when senior center Josiah Stober (Spencerville) scored off a Cunningham dime, and junior Josh Eichar (North Baltimore) buried a jumper which gave Bluffton its largest lead of the game (45-40) with 14:02 showing on the clock.
The home team answered by scoring the game's next eight points to take a three-point advantage. Wilson's deep ball tied the score at 48 with 10:23 remaining. The contest then started to slip away from the Beavers as they never went back ahead of the home team.
The Terriers changed the entire complexion of the game by going on a crucial 13-2 jag over the next 4:46. The only Bluffton points during that span were a layup by freshman Brent Farley (Lima/Shawnee) at the 8:15 mark. Hiram had five players score during the run. The momentum-shifting spurt by the home team opened up a 61-50 advantage with 5:37 on the clock.
Bluffton was able to hang around due to a mini 9-3 push in which it forced three Terrier miscues. When Cunningham tipped-in a Stober miss, the Hiram lead was down to five points (64-59) with 3:03 showing on the game clock. Hiram's Nick Russo buried a dagger from long range on a Pfouts assist to push the lead back to eight points (67-59) with only 1:49 to go.
The exclamation point came when Babajide Eniola stuffed a dunk with just seven seconds to go, sending the Beavers home with a 74-61 setback.
Bluffton ultimately had no answer for Hiram's Chris Roberts. The sophomore guard poured in a game-high 28 points, topping this season's average of 23.6 PPG. He relied heavily on a 14-of-17 effort at the charity stripe, while also draining 7-for-10 inside the arc. His solid free throw shooting led a 21-for-27 Hiram team effort. Roberts also paced the Terriers with seven boards.
The Beavers had three players finish in double digits, led by Nick Wilson's 16 points. Cunningham had 11 points and led the Beavers with six rebounds and three steals. Freshman forward Brent Farley gave Bluffton a spark off the bench with 10 points. He also snared five boards.
The drastic difference in each team's shooting percentage was the difference in the game. Bluffton shot just 22-of-52 from the floor (42.3 percent) while Hiram torched Price Gymnasium's nets by hitting 25-for-45 (55.6 percent). The Beavers managed just 3-of-18 (16.7 percent) from behind the arc, while Hiram minimized its attempts, hitting on 3-for-7 (42.9 percent). Bluffton gave the ball away 19 times in the game, compared to 17 miscues by Hiram. The Beavers ripped down 14 offensive rebounds on the evening.
Bluffton is off until the Beavers welcome three other schools to Founders Hall for the 11th annual McDonald's of Bluffton Holiday Tournament on December 30-31, 2008. The first contest is OSU-Lima versus Grove City and is slated to start at 6 p.m. on December 30. Game two that same evening features host Bluffton against Wright State-Lake at 8 p.m. The four teams will play the next day in the consolation and championship games at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., respectively.