Nick Taflinger, sports information assistant
BLUFFTON, Ohio - The Bluffton University women's basketball team defeated Mount St. Joseph in a huge HCAC contest by the score of 70-63 on Thursday, Jan. 31. The win pushed Bluffton to 7-13 (5-8 HCAC), while MSJ dropped to 12-8 and 7-6 in the Heartland Conference. Originally slated for Wednesday night, the extreme temperatures that blanketed the Midwest pushed the game back a night.
The offenses started slowly as both teams struggled to hit shots. Freshman Brianna Gillig (New Riegel) bucketed the first four points for a 4-0 Bluffton lead with 6:18 remaining in the first round. MSJ would respond with an 11-2 run to take an 11-6 lead with 2:34 left after a triple by Rachel Moody. Bluffton finished the quarter on a 6-0 run that included two layups by Lj Olverson (Cincinnati/Princeton) to give the Beavers a 12-11 lead after one quarter.
MSJ went up 26-17 with 4:31 left in the second quarter as the Beavers were having trouble stopping the visitors. After trailing 30-20 with just 1:57 left in the first half, Kylie Brock (Villa Hills, Ky.) sparked Bluffton with back-to-back three-point bombs and a steal that led to a Chelsea Moore (Delaware/Olentangy) layup on the other end. The Beavers fought back with 11 straight counters and trailed by just one point at halftime (32-31).
The home team came out on fire in the second half, going up 44-37 with 4:07 left in the third stanza after a layup by Tj Mills (Dayton/Chaminade Julienne). Mills scored seven points in the period to pace the Bluffton offense. After two freebies by Brooklynn Sturwold cut the Beaver led to 44-42, Moore responded with consecutive buckets on the last two possessions of the third quarter for a 48-44 lead after three quarters.
The fourth quarter was the highest scoring period of the night as the Beavers saved their best offense for last, scoring 22 points in the quarter. MSJ scored an impressive 17, but their fight wasn't enough as the home team sealed a 70-63 victory.
Mills led the Beavers with 15 in the game, going 8-of-11 from the charity stripe. She also topped the team with five assists. Gillig recorded a double-double as she scored 14 points (6-of-6 from the free throw line), while also pulling down 13 rebounds as she dominated the glass. Olverson scored 12 off the bench, going 5-of-8 from the field. Brock scored nine, Moore pitched in eight points and six rebounds, and Breanna Graham (Springboro) hit two triples for her six points.
Lainee Studer did it all for the visiting team as she scored 21 points, pulled down 10 rebounds, dished out seven assists, had five steals and tallied four blocks (all team highs!). Sturwold scored 12 for the visitors. Hayley Hudson added nine off the bench while also ripping down nine rebounds.
Bluffton shot 22-of-58 from the floor, making 37.9 percent of their shots. MSJ was a similar 20-for-54 from the floor for 37 percent shooting. From long distance, Bluffton hit 5-of-18 for 27.8 percent, while the visitors finished 11-of-29 for 37.9 percent. Both teams were effective at the free throw line with the Beavers draining 21-of-26 for 80.8 percent, while MSJ converted 12-of-14 (85.7 percent). Bluffton outrebounded MSJ 44-28 and also handed out five more assists (18-13).
The Beavers next contest will take place against the Rose-Hulman Fightin' Engineers on Saturday, Feb. 2, in the first game of a doubleheader that will tip off at 1 P.M. in Terre Haute, Ind. The women are back home for rival Defiance College on Wednesday, Feb. 6 at 6 P.M. Come out and support your Beavers!