By: Joseph Watkins, sports information assistant
BLUFFTON, Ohio - The Bluffton University men's basketball team fought off the Earlham College Quakers for a big 77-68 Heartland Conference win at the Sommer Center on Wednesday, Jan. 23. Although the Beavers never led throughout the entire first stanza, they fought back in the second half to take down the Quakers in a pivotal HCAC tilt. Bluffton improved to 14-4 overall and 8-3 in the Heartland Conference, while Earlham fell to 5-12 and 4-6 in the HCAC.
A three-point shot by sophomore Dezman Brown (Elyria) with 7:01 left in the contest finally put Bluffton up 60-57 for good. Two free throws by junior Isaiah Taylor (Yellow Springs) made the score 74-66 with 54 seconds remaining, all but sealing the Beaver victory.
A low-scoring first half came to a close when Earlham's Kenneth Stalling Jr. buried a three-point shot with three ticks remaining, giving the visitors a 33-30 lead the break.
An early triple from Andrew Renner (Cairo/Bath) knotted the score at 35-35 less than a minute and a half into the second period. Bluffton finally started to pull away with 4:48 left when Renner hit a pair of free throws that put the Beavers up comfortably (68-60) after a tense HCAC battle for the first 36 minutes.
Taylor led the way, dropping a career-high 24 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the field, and he also pulled down a team-high nine rebounds while doling out a team-high six assists in the victory. Renner netted 13 of his own on 3-of-6 from the field and 1-of-3 from three-point land. He was also a perfect 6-of-6 at the charity stripe. Jameel Cosby (Springfield/Kenton Ridge) and Brown bucketed 12 and 11 points, respectively, while Dowdy added six points on a pair of crucial trifectas late in the game.
The Beavers hit 27-of-53 from the field for 50.9 percent, compared to 30-of-64 (46.9 percent) for the Quakers. Bluffton went 7-of-16 from three-point (43.8 percent) while the Quakers were 6-of-18 (33.3 percent) from behind the arc. The Quakers turned the ball over nine times, compared to just eight for the Beavers.
The men will be back in action on Saturday, Jan. 26, when they travel to Hanover to take on the Panthers in a crucial HCAC clash. Tip-off is slated for 2 p.m.