Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.
The Barton College men’s basketball team could not maintain its promising start and was stunned 93-79 by NCAA Division II Conference Carolinas rival Belmont Abbey in Wilson Gymnasium on Tuesday evening.
The Bulldogs, who dropped from No. 14 to No. 20 in the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Division II national rankings, bolted to a 10-1 start behind the 3-point shooting of senior guard Zach Grant.
But deadly-shooting Abbey surged to its first lead of 16-15 and would trail but once more in handing Barton its first conference loss against one win and dropping head coach Ron Lievense’s squad to 7-2 overall.
The Crusaders of head coach Billy Taylor climbed to 2-0 and 7-2, respectively, building as much as a 17-point lead with less than six minutes remaining.
Abbey climbed from the 10-1 hole to a 52-43 halftime margin by knocking down 16-of-29 shots from the floor for 61.3-percent accuracy and draining 8-of-11 shots from 3-point range for a torrid 72.7 percent.
The Crusaders wound up hitting 29-of-56 shots for 52 percent and 11-of-22 attempts from beyond the 3-point arc. Abbey outscored the Bulldogs 24-14 from the foul line.
Barton managed a scant 33-32 rebounding edge and was accurate on 30-of-60 shots from the floor for a respectable 50 percent. However, the Bulldogs were on target on just 5-of-23 3-point attempts and committed 21 turnovers as compared to 12 for the Crusaders.
Overshadowed were solid performances from Barton’s Blake Burdack, a 6-foot-8 sophomore, and 6-5 sophomore Isaiah Reddish.
An inside force, Burdack stuffed in 24 points and snared eight rebounds Accurate on 7-of-8 shots from the floor, Reddish tossed in 16 points and claimed eight rebounds. Junior Michael Boykin managed 15 points and sophomore Jake Kakar added 10.
Leading scorer Bobby Stenborg, a 6-5 senior averaging 17.9 points, was limited to a season-low four points but handed out six assists.
Defensively, the Bulldogs couldn’t stop the Crusaders’ DeQuan Abrom, a 6-2 junior who drilled in a game-high 32 points. Freshman Sean Halloran bucketed 19 and sophomore Romeao Ferguson 11.
A spurt at the outset of the second half enabled Barton to cut the nine-point halftime deficit to four points. But the Crusaders’ lead fluctuated between four and seven points the first 10 minutes of the second half.
Barton soon encountered a stretch during which it couldn’t value the basketball, connect from long distance or finish inside.
With less than seven minutes remaining, the Crusaders owned a 73-60 margin on a steal and 3-pointer from Abrom. Belmont Abbey’s biggest lead was 80-63 on 6-7 sophomore ThankGod Avar’s lay-in.
The frantic Bulldogs drew no closer than 87-77.
The Crusaders seized their first lead at 16-15 when Halloran nailed a 3-pointer. Abbey upped the lead to 24-17.
Burdack and Reddish rallied the Bulldogs to their final lead of 41-40 when Burdack scored inside off a Stenborg assist.
But a 3-pointer each from Romeao Ferguson and 6-5 senior Ben Ferguson and four free throws from Abrom accounted for a 10-0 Abbey run of which Barton had no answer.
The Bulldogs attempt to rebound at home at 4 p.m. Saturday against conference foe Emmanuel (Georgia) College.