Bluffton 68, Defiance 60
Beavers take over sole possession of second place in HCAC with 68-60 victory over
By Molly Burnell, sports information assistant
January 25, 2006
BLUFFTON, Ohio - Founders Hall was rocking on Wednesday, January 25, 2006 as the Bluffton University Beavers defeated conference rival Defiance College. The standing room only crowd saw an amazing athletic effort by both teams with Bluffton coming out on top by a final score of 68-60. With the victory the Beavers improve to 15-3, 5-2 HCAC on the season and the Yellow Jackets fall to 8-9, 1-6 HCAC. Bluffton now moves into sole possession of second place in the Heartland Conference behind Transylvania who stands alone at the top with an HCAC record
Senior Eric Sweet (Ottawa/Ottawa Glandorf) opened the contest with a quick bucket to give Bluffton an early two point advantage. Fellow Ottawa native Matt Laudick connected on a free throw and put Defiance in the scoring column less than a minute into the contest. The Yellow Jackets hit two more jumpers to take a one point lead (5-4) before a Scott Bergman (Elmore/Woodmore) three-pointer gave the Beavers a two point cushion (7-5). Defense became the key over next few minutes as neither team could find the bucket. Defiance's Anthony Pettaway and Matt Muratori took advantage of missed Bluffton shots to give the Yellow Jackets a two point lead (9-7) with 14:15 to play. The Beavers kept working but they couldn't put points on the board as Defiance went on a 10-0 run. Senior Darren Clark (Plain City/Jonathan Alder) saw his first action after an ankle injury and broke the Yellow Jacket run with a lay up at the 11:05 mark. Sweet and Bergman drained free throws to keep the game close, as Defiance maintained a seven point lead until Sweet started the Beavers' comeback. Two lay ups and a shot from the charity stripe by the senior pulled Bluffton within two points. Junior Tom Heil (Stow/Archbishop Hoban) connected on a triple to give the Beavers a one point advantage (25-24) just before the half. Two late baskets by Defiance pushed the Yellow Jackets to a three point halftime lead, 28-25.
Bluffton came out slow in the second half as the visitors managed to score the first four points of the period. Sweet continued to dominate, despite battling illness, as he put the Beavers on the board with a lay up at the 17:06 point. Both teams traded buckets and continued to play tight defense until a Clark three-pointer cut the Defiance lead to three points with 12:38 remaining. C.J. Johnson drained a triple of his own to give the Yellow Jackets a four point cushion with less than twelve minutes to play. Junior David Patch (Minster/Minster) hit a clutch shot for the Beavers and started the Bluffton rally. Sweet dished out two more points and Defiance's Bryan Post nailed two free throws to keep the Yellow Jacket advantage at two points. Freshman Colt Cunningham (Powell/Worthington Christian) came off a high screen and hit an amazing three-pointer to give Bluffton its first lead of the half. Pettaway answered with a jumper of his own before Bergman drilled two free throws to give Bluffton the lead back. Patch and Bergman both took Eric Schwieterman (St. Henry/St. Henry) passes to the three-point line for back to back triples giving the Beavers a six point lead with 3:13 to play. Bluffton controlled the remaining minutes of the contest and kept the fans excited as they pulled away from the Yellow Jackets. Two Bergman free throws clinched the win for the home team with 16 seconds to play. Laudick hit a pair from the charity stripe to wrap up the scoring as the Beavers prevailed by a final score of 68-60.
Sweet led the way for Bluffton, posting a double-double with 22 points and 14 boards; he also swatted away six shots on the evening. Bergman also scored 22 points, pulled down six rebounds and added five assists. Patch added seven points and Schwieterman dished out a team-high six assists in the victory.
For the contest the Beavers shot 43 percent from the field compared to Defiance's 42 percent average. Bluffton won the battle on the boards as the Beavers pulled down 33 rebounds compared to the Yellow Jackets who only managed 24 boards.
The Beavers have now won more games than they did in 2004-05 when they finished the season 14-13. With conference play at the midpoint Bluffton needs only three victories to equal the school best 18 that the 1984-85 squad won under the direction of legendary coach Glenn Snyder.
Bluffton will return to action on Saturday, January 28, 2006 when it hosts HCAC rival Hanover College in the second game of a women's and men's doubleheader on Hall of Fame Day. Tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m.