Bluffton 82, Wright State-Lake 67
Bluffton hits 32-of-55 from the field in 82-67 win over Wright St.-Lake
By: Aaron Mass, sports information intern
December 30, 2008
BLUFFTON, Ohio - The Bluffton University men's basketball team ended its three-game losing streak as it defeated Wright State-Lake 82-67 in the opening round of the McDonald's of Bluffton Holiday Tournament on December 30, 2008. The victory propelled the host Beavers (7-4) into the tournament championship game tomorrow at 3 p.m. when it will do battle with Grove City, a 74-42 victor over OSU-Lima. Wright State-Lake fell to 6-5 on the season.
Junior point guard Josh Eichar (North Baltimore) grabbed a rebound, then found senior center Josiah Stober (Spencerville) for a three-ball to get the Beavers on the scoreboard at the 17:38 mark of the first half. Bluffton then fell behind until senior Aaron Taylor (Antwerp) tied the game at 10 with a jumper.
Freshman Nick Lee (Mount Blanchard/Vanlue) gave the Beavers a 12-10 lead on a layup just 23 seconds later.
The visiting Lakers then took a slim lead which they held for the next few minutes. Freshman forward Brent Farley (Lima/Shawnee) tied the game at 21 as he scored in close at the 10:32 mark in the opening period. The lead then changed hands twice before Bluffton grabbed a 24-23 advantage on a jump hook by senior captain Justin Rufenacht (Wauseon/Pettisville). The Beavers would never trail again in the ballgame. Rufenacht got to the rack 1:22 later to push the lead to 29-23.
Fellow senior captain Colt Cunningham (Powell/Worthington Christian) drained back-to-back treys, then found Stober for a jumper to help the Beavers build their largest lead of the first half (37-27).Wright State Lake's Jordan Winner hit one of his four triples to answer the Bluffton rally.
The visitors came as close as four points (38-34) before Cunningham hit two foul shots and another triple to stretch the lead back to nine (43-34). Stober then knocked down two free throws, but the Lakers' Danny Brincefield hit a tough jump shot to keep Wright State-Lake within striking distance at the half (45-38).
The first stanza saw five lead changes and the score tied six times. Both teams shot the ball extremely well in the first half. Bluffton hit 16-of-26 (61.5 percent) compared to 16-for-30 (53.3 percent) for the visitors.
Bluffton started out the second half by slowly extending its lead. Cunningham drilled one of his five triples on the evening for a 52-42 lead with 17:19 remaining. Taylor then hit a three and a layup for a 57-45 advantage. Wilson fed Farley for a layup 1:43 later to keep the lead at 12 points (59-47).
The Beavers were unable to polish off the Lakers, however, as the visitors fought back with a 7-0 run over the next two minutes. Two Brincefield freebies made the score 59-54 and the clock still showed 11:39 left in the contest.
Host Bluffton abruptly responded with a crucial 14-2 spurt in just over a six-minute span to open its largest lead of the night (73-56) at the 5:31 mark. Cunningham scored half of the points during the run and the Beavers' margin never got under single digits the rest of the game.
The closest the Lakers got was 75-65 on a deep ball from Brad Johns with the clock at 3:41. The Beavers scored the game's next six points. First, Taylor dropped one of his six dimes to senior Nick Wilson (Continental). Then junior transfer Tyler Braidic (Pandora-Gilboa) hit a jumper following his own steal. Wilson ripped down one of his six boards, then drained a jumper to put the game well out of reach (81-65).
Freshman Nate Heckelman (Norwalk) finished the Beavers' scoring by hitting a foul shot with 33 seconds in the game to make the final score 82-67 in favor of the home team.
Wright State-Lake was led by center Jordan Winner's game-high 22 points, including 4-of-7 from long distance. The only other Laker in double figures was point guard Brooks Topp with 13 points and a team-high seven boards despite playing most of the game in foul trouble.
Bluffton's balanced all-around effort boasted four players in double figures, all seniors. The Beavers were led by Cunningham's 21 points on 7-of-14 from the floor. His five trifectas led a 10-for-21 effort (47.6 percent) by the Beavers from downtown. Taylor and Stober had 14 points apiece and combined for 11-for-17 on field goals. Nick Wilson came off the bench and finished with 10 points and six rebounds. Farley led the team with seven rebounds. Point guard Josh Eichar had five boards and led the team with seven assists against just one turnover.
Bluffton torched the nets at Founders Hall by hitting 32-of-55 from the floor (58.2 percent), and Wright State-Lake was also solid in hitting half of its field goal attempts (27-of-54). Bluffton stroked five more threes (10) than the Lakers, and the Beavers handed out 21 assists compared to only 12 by the visitors.
Both teams finish out the McDonald's of Bluffton Holiday Tournament on New Year's Eve, again at Founders Hall. Wright State-Lake will battle OSU-Lima in the consolation game at 1 p.m. The Beavers will go for their fifth consecutive tournament title in the championship game versus Grove City. That contest is set to tip off at approximately 3 p.m.