Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.
The Barton College men’s basketball team may not be making its eighth appearance in the NCAA Division II tournament this season.
But even in the midst of an injury-plagued year, two of the core tenets of the Bulldogs under veteran head coach Ron Lievense — defense and rebounding — helped carry Barton to a quality Conference Carolinas victory Saturday afternoon with a 92-74 win over Lees-McRae at Wilson Gymnasium.
Playing at home for the first time since Jan. 11, Barton, which evened its conference record at 8-8 and climbed to 10-13 overall, picked up double-doubles from juniors Isaiah Reddish and Blake Burdack. Reddish led all scorers with 30 points and 16 rebounds, while Burdack had 15 points and 12 boards.
As a testament to Barton’s defensive tenacity, the Bulldogs held Lees-McRae to 24-of-71 shooting for 33.8% accuracy and limited the league’s highest-scoring attack to 19.6 points below its per-game average.
Lees-McRae, which had won four of five games entering play, fell to 16-5 in all games and 9-6 in conference play, falling into a tie for fourth place with Belmont Abbey.
Further boosting Lievense’s morale was the fact that Barton whipped the Bobcats on the glass by a 53-35 margin and held Lees-McRae guard Jason Saintizaire, tied for the Conference Carolinas lead in 3-point percentage, to just five points and no treys made in 17 minutes.
“When you look down this lineup and you see what those guys average and what numbers those guys put up, our guys did a tremendous job,” Lievense said of his team’s defense. “I also felt we were able to dominate the rebounding tonight. We just dominated the boards, 53-35. Against a talented team like that, that’s an amazing job.”
Trailing by two late in the first half, Barton went on a 10-2 run to take a six-point lead into halftime. Senior Michael Boykin’s steal and layup started the run, and Boykin’s finish at the rim with seven seconds left in the half staked the Bulldogs to a 39-33 lead.
In the interim, Barton bulled its way to the line as part of a 33-for-40 showing. That was enough to produce more makes that Lees-McRae attempted, as the Bobcats finished 19 of 30 from the line.
Barton soon pulled away in the second half. Leading 43-42 with 16:47 remaining, the Bulldogs embarked on an 18-4 run to essentially take Lees-McRae out of contention.
Boykin and Reddish fueled the run to give Barton a 56-46 advantage, and after Burdack pulled down an offensive rebound on his way to being fouled, Lees-McRae’s Anthony Hicks and Jerick Haynes were each hit with technicals.
Reddish sank three of the four resulting free throws, with Barton getting a five-point trip following junior David Campbell’s jumper. That stretched Barton’s lead to 63-48 with 11:15 left, and the Bobcats got no closer. Barton’s lead reached as many as 30 on a pair of free throws by freshman Cam Savage at the 5:51 mark.
The only drawback for Barton was 22 turnovers against the trapping defense of Lees-McRae — a figure that had Lievense audibly lamenting the lack of ball security as the final minutes ticked down.
“We rebounded the ball well, assisted well and shot a lot of free throws,” Reddish said. “This was a really good team we played — I think they’re top four in the conference? It was a big win for us.”
Barton made half of its shots in a 28-for-56 display as its ailment list expanded. Besides senior Isaiah Buck-Lowman’s back injury that currently has no timetable for a return, junior forward Matt Elmore suffered an ankle injury in the win over Mount Olive and departed the locker room on crutches Saturday.
The Bulldogs visit Chowan on Tuesday.
Dollar 10, Saintizaire 5, Williams 8, Hicks, Kimble 16, Gardner 6, Haynes 10, England 6, Harris, Jones 5, Holmes Jr. 6, Shelton 2, Morgan.
Burdack 15, Gordon 6, Reddish 30, Savage 8, Boykin 12, Hudson 5, Campbell 12, Robinson 4, Altman, Scoggins, Hampton, Worley.
Halftime score: Barton 39, Lees-McRae 33