by Benny Benton
WILSON, N.C. – Barton College opened up a double-digit lead early in the second half and then held off a University of Mount Olive comeback attempt to edge the rival Trojans, 80-74, in a Conference Carolinas men's basketball matchup Wednesday night at Wilson Gym.
With the win, the Bulldogs (17-8, 12-5) maintained their half-game lead over King University for third place in the league. Barton also sealed a top-four seed and a home game for the first round of the upcoming Conference Carolinas Tournament.
The loss dropped Mount Olive to 7-18 overall and 6-11 in league play.
Senior Daniel Westbrook scored a team-high 20 points and pulled down eight rebounds for the Bulldogs. Freshman Michael Boykin chipped in 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists, senior R.J. Claypool contributed 14 points and five rebounds, and freshman Miguel Brown added 13 points and eight boards.
Sophomore Jamal Matin tossed in a game-high 23 points and added six rebounds in a losing cause for the Trojans. Tayon Gleaves produced 17 points, and Saiquan Jamison recorded 10 points and six rebounds in the loss.
Both teams shot well over 50 percent in the first half, Mount Olive making 56 percent (18 of 32) and Barton sinking 55 percent (16 of 29). The Bulldogs maintained that effort in the second half, shooting 52 percent (14 of 27) while holding UMO to just 37 percent (11 of 30).
Mount Olive lost despite committing just nine turnovers while forcing Barton into 17. The Bulldogs were able to overcome the extra mistakes by enjoying a 37 to 23 rebounding edge, and by making 14 of 15 attempts from the free throw line in the game (93 percent).
The Trojans made 13 of their first 19 attempts from the floor in the game (68 percent) and opened up a nine-point advantage at 29-20 on a steal and fast-break layup by Tyler Thomas with 9:51 left in the first half. However, Boykin and Brown combined for 15 of BC's final 19 points of the half in leading the Bulldogs back to a halftime tie, 39-all.
Barton began the second half on an 8-0 run, with six of those points coming from Claypool. The Bulldogs pushed the lead to double-digits on a Matt Woods 3-pointer with 16:05 to go, and took their biggest lead of the night at 58-47 following a tip-in by Brown with 11:28 remaining.
The Bulldogs still led by nine with 9:40 to play when Mount Olive used a 3-pointer by Thomas, a fast-break layup by DeAndre Barber and another layup by Thomas to quickly cut the deficit to just two at 62-60 with 7:55 still to go. However, Westbrook started and ended a 10-2 BC run with 3-pointers, pushing Barton's lead back to 10 at 72-62 with 4:22 remaining.
A pair of turnovers and a missed shot by Barton provided one final opportunity for Mount Olive, and the Trojans used a layup by Jamison, a free throw by Matin and a 3-pointer by Gleaves to trim the deficit to four at 72-68 with 1:03 left.
The Bulldogs led by six following two free throws by Woods with 35 seconds left when Gleaves drained a 3-pointer for UMO to make it a one-possession game with 28 seconds to play. However, Westbrook sank two free throws, Gleaves missed his next 3-point attempt, and Isaiah Buck-Lowman made two free throws with 10 seconds remaining to seal the victory.
Buck-Lowman's free throws capped an 8-for-8 performance from the charity stripe in the final minute.
The contest was the first of three in a row at home for the Bulldogs. Barton will host Emmanuel College on Saturday at 4 p.m. and welcome Lees-McRae College next Tuesday before closing the regular-season with a rematch against Mount Olive on Friday, Feb. 24.