By: Joseph Watkins, sports information assistant
BLUFFTON, Ohio - The Bluffton University men's basketball team played host to league foe Mount St. Joseph on Wednesday, Dec. 4, in what was the first conference matchup of the season. The Beavers controlled the game from the tip, never allowing the Lions to take a lead despite a late comeback try that fell just short for MSJ in Bluffton's 64-61 victory. Bluffton improved to 4-2 overall and 1-0 in the Heartland Conference, while MSJ dipped to 2-6 overall and 0-1 in the HCAC.
Bluffton got out to a hot start and kept the foot on the pedal for the majority of the contest. With 13:16 left in the first stanza, junior Dezman Brown (Elyria) would lay one in to make it 18-5 early in the first half. The Beavers largest lead of the game came with 9:14 in the first stanza when Isaiah Taylor (Yellow Springs) split a pair of free throws to make the score 26-7 in favor of the good guys. The Lions rallied with a strong second half comeback, but came up just short thanks to Brown's four makes at the stripe in the final 18 seconds.
The Beavers opened up an early nine-point lead when Andrew Renner (Cairo/Bath) drilled a trey to make the score 14-5 with 14:52 left in the first half. Bluffton would control the pace for the rest of the first half, taking a 35-21 lead into the break.
With Bluffton firing from all cylinders in the first half, the home team was looking to continue that trend into the second period. Unfortunately, the early 19-point lead was sliced to just two when MSJ's Brady Thomas got to the rack to make it 60-58 with 1:24 on the clock. Brown would come up big time for the Beavers as he had two trips to the charity stripe and went 4-for-4 which sealed the Bluffton victory.
Brown paced the Beavers with 16 points and a career-high six assists. Fellow junior Aaron Rich (Greenville) also notched double figures with 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting. Jameel Cosby (Springfield/Kenton Ridge) ripped down a team and career-high 12 rebounds in the win.
Bluffton hit 27-of-58 (46.6 percent) from the field, including 5-of-17 (29.4 percent) from distance. The Beavers would commit 20 fouls, compared to 13 for the Lions. The home team pulled down four more rebounds, but finished with one more miscue (9-8)
Bluffton will be back in action on Saturday, Dec. 7, when the Beavers travel to Franklin College for a conference matchup with the Grizzlies. Tip-off is set for 4 p.m.