Anderson 81, Bluffton 73 (OT)
Bluffton's luck runs out in 81-73 overtime loss at Anderson
By: Aaron Mass, sports information assistant
January 14, 2009
ANDERSON, Ind. - For the third time in as many conference contests, the Bluffton University men's basketball team went down to the wire with an HCAC foe. Unfortunately for the Beavers, this time the Anderson Ravens had just a bit too much. Bluffton was defeated by Anderson, 81-73 in overtime, on Wednesday, January 14, in front of a large crowd at O.C. Lewis Gymnasium. Following two straight game-winners by senior Nick Wilson (Continental), this time Bluffton was unable to capitalize on an opportunity for first place in the conference.
The tough road loss dropped Bluffton's record to 10-5 overall and 4-2 in the HCAC. Anderson won its ninth consecutive game, improving to 12-3 with a 5-1 mark in the conference. The win, coupled with Transylvania's victory over the Grizzlies, moved the Ravens into a first-place tie with Franklin College.
Anderson was leading 68-63 with 1:08 to go after two freebies by Mike Russell. The charity tosses were two of his game-high 32 points. Bluffton's Aaron Taylor (Antwerp) was then fouled 13 seconds later and converted both. Anderson had the basketball with 55 seconds left after a Bluffton timeout. Russell drove into the paint, only to have his shot blocked by senior Colt Cunningham (Powell/Worthington Christian). He grabbed the loose ball and Bluffton called timeout with 17 seconds remaining and the Beavers trailing, 68-65. The road team was not ready to quit yet.
Cunningham looked to tie it, but he could not get a clean look. The captain passed to Taylor, who drove to the rack for a clutch hoop and harm. His free throw to complete the three-point play tied it with only five seconds to go in regulation.
After Coach Slyder of Anderson used a timeout, the Ravens threw a deep pass and got a look from point blank range, but the shot trickled off the rim as time expired, sending the battle into an extra period with the teams deadlocked at 68.
The home team rattled off the first six points of the overtime period on a three foul shots and an old-fashioned three-point play by Russell.
Over the next 2:24 of overtime, Anderson hit four free throws to open up a 77-69 lead with 36 seconds to go in regulation. During that same span, Bluffton was plagued by a turnover and three straight missed shots.
Bluffton cut the lead to 78-73 on two straight drives to the cup by Cunningham, still with 20 seconds to go. However, the Ravens hit three more free throws to make the final score 81-73. In the overtime period, the Ravens converted 11-of-17 free throws while the Beavers made just 2-for-9 from the floor.
The Beavers came out with intensity by scoring the game's first four points on consecutive layups by senior center Josiah Stober (Spencerville). The visitors continued to attack on the offensive end and held the lead for most of the first half. Bluffton opened up a spread of 12-5 on another layup by Stober off a Josh Eichar (North Baltimore) assist. Russell answered with one of his four long-balls.
Bluffton's largest lead of the first half was 17-8 after Cunningham drilled a triple. Bluffton held its lead for the next seven minutes. Cunningham and Taylor sandwiched threes around a deep ball by Russell to open up a 27-20 advantage with 7:32 left.
The Ravens scored seven straight points to tie it, then took their first lead on a layup by Andrew Jones. The ballgame stayed close for the last 6:30 as neither team led by more than three points. A Cunningham jumper brought the Beavers to within one, but Russell was fouled just before the end of the half. He buried both tosses to give Anderson a 39-36 halftime edge. Bluffton had 24 of its 36 first half points in the painted area.
Anderson and Bluffton went back and forth for the first seven and a half minutes of the second half. The Beavers took their first lead since 4:55 of the first half when Cunningham hit two foul shots following an Anderson turnover. The captain's makes made the score 49-47 with 11:44 left in the second half.
Bluffton's lead stayed at four points or less for nearly the next six minutes, but Russell simply would not let the Ravens go away. Anderson tied it with 5:47 left on a layup by Rodney Holliday. The forward then scored six straight points, giving the home team a 66-63 lead with 3:12 remaining.
Bluffton missed out on a few chances to cut the deficit by missing three layups on one possession. Russell's two makes from the charity stripe gave Anderson a 68-63 lead and 1:08 to go, setting the stage for the frantic finish to regulation.
Bluffton shot the ball a little better from the floor than the Ravens. The Beavers hit 28-of-60 (46.7 percent), as opposed to Anderson which made 22-of-54 (40.7 percent). The difference in the ballgame was at the charity stripe. Anderson made 10 more foul shots than Bluffton attempted. The Ravens hit 29-of-39 (74.4 percent), compared to the Beavers converting 13-of-19 (68.4 percent).
Anderson made twice as many threes as Bluffton (8-4), but the visitors were able to stay close due to a 39-34 rebounding edge (13 offensive). The home team outscored Bluffton 13-5 in the extra session.
The star of the evening was Anderson senior guard Mike Russell. He torched the Beavers for 32 points, well above his season average of 19.1 PPG entering the contest. The veteran guard's efforts game on 8-of-14 from the field, including 4-of-7 from downtown; and an astounding 12-for-13 night from the foul line (92.3 percent). The only other Raven in double figures was Brandon Coffer with 11 points. Forward Andrew Jones chipped in eight points and seven rebounds.
For the seventh time this season, senior captain Colt Cunningham led the Beavers in scoring. He scored 23 points, including 9-of-11 from the charity line. Taylor was next with 16 points and his five dimes led the squad. Two post players came off the bench to give the Beavers a spark. Nick Wilson had 12 points and freshman Brent Farley (Lima/Shawnee) notched his first career double-double with 10 points and 11 boards.
The Bluffton University men are on the road again this Saturday, January 17, at the College of Mount St. Joseph. That contest will tip at approximately 3 p.m. after the women's contest.