2017-18 Men's Basketball
Bluffton 81, Earlham 78
December 6, 2017
By: Colton Steiner, sports information assistant
BLUFFTON, Ohio - The Bluffton University men’s basketball team faced off against the Earlham Quakers on a cold December night in the Sommer Center. It was a hard fought battle, but the Beavers came out on top, defeating the Quakers 81-78 while improving to 2-4 (1-1 HCAC) on the season. Earlham dipped to 2-5 and 0-2 in the conference.
The home team jumped on top 3-0 after ANDREW HUNTER (Arlington) drained a triple off a dish from fellow senior KEVIN CHRISTIE (Miamisburg/Bishop Fenwick). The teams exchanged baskets until the 4:49 mark of the first stanza when Bluffton went on a 7-0 spurt that included a three by Christie. Earlham then responded with eight unanswered, making the score 35-34 with just under two minutes in the half. The Quakers knotted the game up at 38 after a fast-break layup by AUSTIN DOLIBOA, but the Beavers would answer right back with a last-second chip shot by junior JUSTIS DOWDY (Van Wert/Lincolnview).
Freshman AARON RICH (Greenville) would open up the second half for Bluffton with a tip-in to make it 42-38. With 16:37 remaining, the Beavers extended their lead to seven after JARED WENTLING (Carey) knocked down a pair of free throws. Earlham would not go away, making it a one-possession game after CHAINEY ZOLMAN rolled in a layup at the 13:52 mark of the second half.
Sophomore NICK TAFLINGER (Lima/Central Catholic) would fly into the lane and get a tip-in before knocking down a triple to make it 62-56 with 10:37 to go. Another run by the Quakers allowed the visitors to take a 66-64 lead with 5:44 left on the clock. The teams continued to trade baskets until the a Jared Wentling layup and a couple of Kevin Christie free throws made it 78-73 with 1:40 remaining in regulation.
Trailing by four with 10 seconds, the visitors would drive down broadway and net a layup to pull within one possession. ANDREW RENNER (Cairo/Bath) split a pair of free throw to give Bluffton an 81-78 lead with 4.4 seconds left on the clock. Earlham was unable to get a good shot off as the Beavers marched to their first conference victory of the 2017-18 campaign.
It was a team effort on the offensive side of the ball as nine different Bluffton players scored in the outing. Leading the way was Aaron Rich who poured in a career-high 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting to go along with a career-best seven boards. Kevin Christie added 14 markers with five assists along with a perfect 6-of-6 from the charity stripe. Despite struggling from the field, Jared Wentling would notch a career high with 17 rebounds.
The Beavers would have a rough night from the floor, going 28-of-68 (41.2 percent) that included 7-of-22 (31.8 percent) from behind the arc. Despite seeing the Quakers knock down 52.5 percent of their shots, Bluffton was able to get the upper-hand in the rebounding department with a stout 42-33 edge in caroms. The Beavers had a solid day from the free-throw line, connecting on 18-of-21 (85.7 percent) at the stripe.
Next up for Bluffton is a road contest against the Hanover College Panthers on Saturday, Dec. 9, with tip-off set for 4 PM. It will be first of three straight games away from the friendly confines of the Sommer Center. You can follow all the Beaver scores on Twitter @Bluffton_Sports.