Women's Basketball Defeats Bluffton, 60-57

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TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- The Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology women's basketball team erased a 13-point first half deficit and hung on to defeat visiting Bluffton University, 60-57, in a key Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference matchup Saturday at Hulbert Arena.

RHIT freshman Abbie Marshall (St. Louis, Mo./Nerinx Hall) hit 3 of 4 free throws in the final 10 seconds and a 3-point try at the buzzer by Bluffton's Kaitlyn Pennekamp fell short to secure the Engineers' victory.

Marshall, senior Kelsey Ploof (Noblesville, Ind./Noblesville) and freshman Ava Paruleski (Shumway, Ill./Beecher City) led RHIT with 10 points each.

Both teams played even for the first 11 minutes of the first half, as a Ploof layup gave Rose-Hulman a 16-14 lead with 9:20 remaining. But Bluffton (6-5, 2-2 HCAC) would go on a 15-0 run and hold the Engineers scoreless for six minutes to build a 29-16 lead with 3:36 left in the half.

The Engineers would cut into that lead out of a timeout, as freshman center Josie Schmidt (Eighty Four, Pa./Ringgold) sparked the run with a steal and ensuing assist to Paruleski on a fastbreak layup. Paruleski made a steal of her own on the next possession and then delivered an assist to freshman Kristen Belyea (Mahomet, Ill./Mahomet Seymour), who drained a jumper. Ploof connected on a layup and two free throws to help RHIT close the first half on an 8-0 run.

Rose-Hulman (4-7, 2-2 HCAC) regained the lead for the first time since early in the first half remaining when Belyea drained two free throws to give the Engineers a 55-53 lead with 3 minutes left. Belyea's free throws followed a Sheree Williams (Bluffton, S.C./Bluffton) steal and three-point play that tied the game at 53-all.

The Engineers pushed their lead to four (57-53) when Ploof blocked a Bluffton shot to set up a Schmidt layup, but an RHIT turnover gave Bluffton's Taylor Knight a jumper to trim Rose-Hulman's lead to 57-55 with 29 ticks left.

With the Beavers forced to foul, Marshall drained two free throws with 8.6 seconds left then made 1 of 2 foul shots with 4.9 seconds to keep the lead to three, 60-57, after Bluffton's Taylor Knight made two from the stripe.

Bluffton drew up a play out of a timeout with 2.5 seconds left, but Pennekamp's 3 from the wing hit the back iron as the buzzer sounded to give the victory to Rose-Hulman.

The Engineers shot 43.8 percent (21-of-48) for the game, including a 50 percent (9-of-18) effort in the first half. The Beavers shot 33.3 percent (18-of-54) for the contest.

Knight led Bluffton with 14 points, Pennekamp added 13 points and Taylor Whitaker had 10 points in the losing effort.

Ploof finished with a near double-double with a team-best nine rebounds to go along with her 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting and Schmidt added four points, five assists and eight boards for the Engineers. 

Rose-Hulman outrebounded the Beavers 41-28 for the contest, as Marshall added six boards and Belyea had four.

The Engineers return to the court Wednesday, Jan. 8, when they travel to Earlham for a 7:30 p.m. matchup.