Panthers roll to HCAC win against Bluffton

Senior forward Brian Gunter (Louisville, Ky.) recorded his third career double-double and five players reached double figures as Hanover College’s men’s basketball squad rolled to an 82-54 victory against Bluffton University (Ohio). The squads met Saturday, Jan. 5, in a Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference tilt in Collier Arena.

Gunter posted 11 points and a season-high 11 rebounds to help spark Hanover to its second consecutive league win and seventh in the program’s last eight outings against Bluffton.

Sophomore forward Michael Van Kleunen (Mason, Ohio) had a game-best 13 points and also added a season-high six rebounds for the Panthers (7-6; 4-2 HCAC). Senior guards Drake Hendricks (Muncie, Ind.) and Ryan Nowicki (Westfield, Ind.), along with sophomore forward Desmond Marks (Bloomington, Ind.), added 10 points apiece.

Will Pope and Dustin Kinn each netted 12 points for Bluffton, which slipped to 4-9 overall and 0-6 in the Heartland Conference with the setback.

Hanover blew open a close game with a 15-2 run during a six-minute stretch late in the first period. Nursing a 17-13 lead midway through the half, Marks started and capped the burst with buckets from point-blank range as the Panthers surged into a 32-15 lead with 4:30 to play in the stanza.

Hanover led 41-26 at the break and expanded the lead to 23 points (54-31) four minutes into the second period after Van Kleunen, Nowicki and Hendricks nailed consecutive three-pointers.

Bluffton would get no closer than 21 points (56-35) the rest of the way.

Gunter and Marks hit two field goals apiece as the Panthers built a 29-point advantage (73-44) with 6:46 left and the cushion reached 31 points (82-51) after reserve guard Ethan Black (Evansville, Ind.) hit from long range early in the final minute.

Hanover’s defense limited Bluffton to just 20 field goal attempts in the first half (10-of-20) while building the double-digit lead. The Beavers finished the game 23-of-53 (43.4%).

Hanover, meanwhile, was 31-of-63 from the floor (49.2%) and hit 10 three-pointers (10-of-25). The Panthers committed only nine turnovers and totaled 19 assists, including seven by sophomore guard Tim Bass (Indianapolis, Ind.).

The double-double was the first for Gunter since he tallied 16 points and 12 rebounds in a 67-52 loss at Manchester University, Jan. 22, 2011. He also achieved the feat with 12 points and 10 boards in a 74-58 win against Franklin College, Feb. 10, 2010.

Hanover vs. Bluffton (Ohio) statistics