The men’s basketball team lost to Bluffton 79-68 in the first round of the HCAC tournament Friday. Despite defeating the Beavers twice in the regular season, AU fell behind in the first half and was unable to come back and win.
After putting together a four-game win streak at the end of the regular season, it appeared that the Ravens were poised to make a postseason run; however, the team shot just 28 percent in the first half and trailed by 13 at halftime to open tournament play.
The Beavers were able to hold star senior Cole Hartman to just 10 points. Due to the increased attention to slowing down the Raven big man, fellow senior Mike Peters was able to come alive with a career high 27 points, including 20 in the second half.
Ultimately, the Ravens fell to Bluffton to end their season. The team finished with a record of 11-15 and a first round exit in the conference tournament.
“They were really able to defend us in the half court at a high level,” said Peters. “Some of that had to do with us not making shots and missing a lot of free throws, but they really did a good job of making us work for everything at the offensive end. We played them pretty even in the second half, but we just dug ourselves too big of a hole in the first half that we couldn’t overcome.”
Struggles from the free throw line highlighted the issues for the Ravens. They shot just 56 percent on 14 of 25 shooting. During the regular season, the team shot 75 percent from the line.
Six seniors played in their final game for the Ravens against the Beavers, including starters and career 1,000 point scorers Hartman and Stanley Duncan. Next season, they will need to rely on the experience of point guard Malik Laffoon, as well as forwards Maurice Knight and Michael Rogers. They will also need contributions from incoming freshmen and role players from this season like current freshman Mitch Geller and sophomore Ronny Williams.
The Ravens would’ve faced off against Hanover if they won against Bluffton. They were 1-1 against the Panthers in the regular season. Hanover went on to defeat Bluffton and win the conference tournament after defeating Transylvania 76-73 in the championship game.