BLUFFTON — When a team has three post players who can control the paint and grab rebounds, it will be tough to beat. Bluffton University’s Dustin Kinn, Will Pope and Thayne Recker combined for 51 points and 27 rebounds, as Bluffton defeated North Park (IL) 81-54 to win the McDonald’s Holiday Tournament in men’s college basketball at Bluffton.
Bluffton beat Ohio State-Lima/Rhodes State 76-50 on Sunday in the opening round. North Park beat Ohio Midwestern 83-59, on Sunday, as well.
Ohio Midwestern College defeated Ohio State-Lima in the consolation game, 94-77.
“Our inside game is the strength of our particular team this year,” Bluffton coach Guy Neal said. “We have three really good post players. It’s kind of like a three-headed monster in there. The rest of the guys have really bought into that. We always have to try to work through them offensively.”
Bluffton (6-4) got off to a hot start. The Beavers hit 14-of-25 from the field in the first half, to go along with 15-of-18 from the free-throw line.
North Park (3-8) committed 14 personal fouls and two technical fouls in the first half. The Vikings went just 11-of-29 from the field, along with 4-of-6 from the free-throw line.
Bluffton led 44-27 at the half.
Kinn led Bluffton with 11 first-half points. Pope and Ryan Ebbeskotte both had eight points in the first half, while Recker came off the bench and scored eight, as well.
“Our perimeter guys are starting to mesh together and get more confident too,” Neal said. “I sense that we’re continuing to improve. The thing I was most pleased with was that we defended pretty well. We defended against a much more athletic team than us. We defended and rebounded as a team really well.”
North Park couldn’t chip away at Bluffton’s lead in the second half. The Vikings cut the lead to 48-35 with 17:10 left to play, but then Billy Taflinger drilled a three for the Beavers and that seemed to sink North Park’s ship.
The Beavers outscored the Vikings 37-27 in the second half.
Bluffton went 26-of-49 from the field for the game and 26-of-33 from the free-throw line.
North Park shot just 21-of-62 from the field and 7-of-11 from the free-throw line.
Bluffton won the rebounding battle 41-28 and outscored North Park in the paint, 46-28.
“They have three really good post players and their emphasis is on the inside,” North Park coach Tom Slyder said. “We have weaknesses all over, defensively, especially inside and they took advantage of that. We have to improve at every position. Fundamentally we have to get better players. Nearly every facet of the program has to improve.”
Kinn led all scorers with 29 points. The senior shot 12-of-15 from the field and also grabbed eight rebounds. Recker finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds. Ebbeskotte finished with 13 points.
Juwan Henry led North Park with 21 points.
Kinn was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Joining Kinn on the all-tournament team was his teammate Recker. Henry and Ryan Hyrn of North Park, Robbie Smythe (Ohio Midwestern) and Mason Cajka (OSU-Lima) also made the all-tournament team.
“It’s pretty easy when my teammates get me the ball underneath the hoop,” Kinn said. “I was shooting from zero-feet away. We started off playing great defense which led to our offense. People were driving lanes and making the defense collapse. They were able to find me for easy layups.”
Neal made sure his team was hungry to win the tournament that they hosted.
“You always want to win your own tournament,” Neal said. “We finished second last year and we’ve been talking the last three or four days about winning your own tournament. I thought it was an important step for this team to do.”