After coming off their biggest game of the season on Saturday, defeating Rose-Hulman 73-70, the Bluffton University Men’s Basketball Team (8-8, 5-4 HCAC) pulled off a hard-fought 71-66 win over the Manchester University Spartans (2-14, 0-9 HCAC) Wednesday night in Sommer Center.
Manchester and Bluffton swapped leads eight times in the first half, and Bluffton took a two-point lead into halftime.
“[We were] playing with a little bit more personality, a little bit more energy, communicating a little bit more,” said Bluffton Head Coach Guy Neal of adjustments made in the second-half. “It wasn’t so much X’s and O’s and strategic stuff that stubbed our toe some in the first half, we didn’t have the energy we had Saturday.”
Leading the charge for the Beavers in the first half was senior point guard Kevin Christie (Miamisburg/Bishop Fenwick) with 14 points on five of eight shooting from the field.
“Taking what the defense gives you,” said Christie on the hot start from the first half. “We have a really good offensive team if we really concentrate, and tonight we were able to just lock in and do what we wanted to do on offense and my teammates were able to get me in good positions to get good shots and I was able to hit them in tonight.”
Christie, who was named the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) Player of the Week, led the way for Bluffton, finishing with 25 points and six assists. The Beavers went 27 for 52 from the field, shooting a stellar 52 percent.
Leading the way for the Spartans was senior forward Enis Becirevic (Fort Wayne, Ind.) who finished with 17 points and four rebounds.
Neal said he knew going into the game that it was going to be a nail-biter, and both teams fought back and forth throughout the entire 40 minutes.
“[Manchester’s] record is very, very deceiving,” said Neal. “A lot of their games in the league have been kind of like this tonight. They lost on the road to Transylvania Saturday by, I think, seven, and they were in the game the whole way. So I knew going in it was going to be a difficult game, it was going to be a grind and that they were much better than (what) their record indicated and that’s what it proved to be.”
Manchester, who has beaten Bluffton three out of the last five times they played before Wednesday night’s match-up, had the game in their reach, but a key block from junior forward Justice Dowdy ( Van Wert/Lincolnview) around the minute-and-a-half mark sealed the Spartans’ fate and gave the Beavers the five-point victory.
“Locking in defensively towards the end and making some energy plays,” said Christie on the biggest difference maker in the second half. “Justice had that good block at the end that really provided us with some energy. We got some big rebounds in some key moments, and I think that really helped seal the deal for us.”
Up next on the schedule for this Bluffton University Men’s Basketball team is an away game Saturday as they travel to Lexington, Ky., to take on the Transylvania University Pioneers (12-4, 7-2 HCAC) with tip-off slatted at 4 p.m.
The Beavers will return home to the Sommer Center Saturday, Jan. 27, in a doubleheader with the women’s team as they both take on the Hanover College Panthers starting at 1 p.m.