BLUFFTON — Bluffton has a new guard-oriented look this year.
And part of that includes Beavers freshman guard Andrew Renner.
Renner (Bath) tossed in 16 points, with four 3-pointers, to lead Bluffton to a 79-53 season-opening men’s college basketball win over OSU-Lima/Rhodes State Thursday at the Sommer Center.
Renner scored 14 of his 16 points in the first half when the starters saw the bulk of the action. Renner hit 6 of 7 from the field and 4 of 4 on 3-pointers.
“It was a blast,” Renner said.
Bluffton point guard Trey Elchert (Jackson Center) had nine points and was 3 of 3 on 3-pointers. He also had five assists. Power forward Jared Wentling had eight points and four rebounds.
Justis Dowdy came off the bench to get nine points and four rebounds for Bluffton.
“I thought we made a good conscience effort to defend and I thought our ball movement was really good, offensively,” Bluffton coach Guy Neal said.
Logan Mitchell, a 6-foot-6 power forward from Bellefontaine, paced the Barons (1-3) with 15 points and nine rebounds. Markese Hicks had nine points, while Beau Hefner scored eight.
The Beavers have to lean on the guards more this year after the graduation of power forward Thayne Recker, who averaged 20 points and finished fifth on the Beavers’ men’s all-time scoring list with 1,613 career points.
“We’re a little bit different team this year without the big guy (Recker) in the middle,” Neal said. “And I thought our ball movement was good and that led to some really in-rhythm threes that we knocked down. And we’re going to have to do that.
“We’re going to have more emphasis on our guard play, with different types of movement without the ball and different types of dribble penetration, that hopefully lead to some step-in, jump shots.”
Keying the attack is the senior Elchert from his point-guard slot.
“Size-wise, we’re not as big or as post dominant as what we’ve been,” Elchert said. “So with a little bit smaller lineup, we’ll play a little more up-tempo and have a lot more ball screens and try to get a little bit more movement. We want to get our guards more involved, offensively, and hopefully we can shoot like we did tonight.”
Also gone from last year is guard Billy Taflinger (Lima Central Catholic), who averaged 11 points.
Returning starters for Bluffton are Elchert, 6-3 Wentling and 5-10 Austin Rohde, who had six points.
Among the starters, Wentling is the team’s inside player at 6-3.
The Beavers bounced out to a quick 17-9 lead.
Renner scored his first collegiate basket on a steal, then a fast-break layup to give the Beavers a 9-4 lead with 17:30 left in the first half.
“It’s a lot easier to get going close to the basket, then scoot away a little bit,” Renner said.
Elchert and guard Kevin Christie both hit 3-pointers to help the Beavers on a 10-0 run to take a 27-9 lead.
Bluffton led 33-18 when Renner took charge.
Renner sank three straight long-range 3-pointers to trigger the Beavers on a 9-2 run. That gave Bluffton a 42-20 lead.
“The shot felt good,” Renner said. “There weren’t many jitters. I was very comfortable playing with the guys tonight. I trust every one of them and they trust me.”
Added Neal, “He’s (Renner) had a real good preseason and is off to a real good start for a freshman. I thought he played with a lot of poise tonight.”
Bluffton led 47-25 at the half and hit 10 of 14 on 3-pointers at the half.
For the game, Bluffton shot 53 percent from the field, including 13 of 25 on 3-pointers.
Bluffton won the boards, 37-28. Both teams had 11 offensive rebounds, with OSU-Lima’s Mitchell pulling down six at the offensive end.
The Barons shot 33 percent from the field.
“We don’t have the thickness that we’ve had in the four and five spot,” Neal said. “We’re in the process of making some adjustments to fit these kids better.”
The Lima News sports department can be reached at 567-242-0468.