by Benny Benton
WILSON, N.C. – Barton College scored the game's first 10 points and rolled to an 84-68 victory over University of Mount Olive Tuesday night in a quarterfinal matchup of the Conference Carolinas Men's Basketball Tournament.
Senior R.J. Claypool led balanced scoring for the third-seeded Bulldogs (20-9) with 20 points. Isaiah Buck-Lowman added 14 points and a game-high eight rebounds, Daniel Westbrook chipped in 12 points and Michael Boykin tossed in 11. Barton also received a significant contribution off the bench from Zach Grant, who produced eight points and five assists.
Mount Olive (9-20), the tournament's No. 6 seed, was paced by an outstanding all-around game from sophomore Jamal Matin, who delivered 23 points, six rebounds, four assists, four blocks and three steals in the team's final game of the season.
With the win, Barton will advance to Saturday's semifinal game in Misenheimer, N.C., home of top-seeded Pfeiffer University. The Bulldogs will take on the No. 2 seed, Limestone College (24-5), at 2 p.m.
Tuesday's quarterfinal contest was a stark contrast to the meeting between Barton and the Trojans just four days ago in the regular-season finale, when the Bulldogs struggled to a season-low point total in a 63-53 loss at Mount Olive.
Barton produced nearly that many points in the first half alone at home on Tuesday after getting out to the quick start.
The Bulldogs, which had managed just four 3-pointers in all of Friday's loss, drained three from beyond the arc in just over four minutes on Tuesday. Mount Olive, meanwhile, missed five of its first six shots from the field, and the combination of those factors led to an 18-3 advantage for Barton just 4:10 into the game.
Five straight points by Matin and a layup by Armond Griebe quickly cut Mount Olive's deficit in half at 18-10, but the Bulldogs pushed their lead back to 11 at 25-14 on an offensive tip-in by Boykin with 10:52 left in the half.
Barton still led by nine at 28-19 when it went through a rough patch, missing three straight shots from the field and adding in a turnover. Mount Olive took advantage, getting layups by Matin, Cameron Robinson and Saiquan Jamison to make up a 6-1 run that pulled the Trojans within just four points at 29-25 with 5:18 remaining in the period.
However, Miguel Brown answered with a layup for BC on the other end of the court, and Mount Olive turned the ball over on its next three possessions. A layup by Boykin, a jumper by Claypool and a 3-pointer by Grant quickly pushed the Bulldogs' lead well into double-digits again at 38-25, where it would remain the rest of the night.
Grant added another 3-pointer before the half was over and a layup at the buzzer, sending Barton to the break with a 43-30 halftime cushion.
Mount Olive never got closer than 11 points in the second half, as Barton shot 60 percent in the period, and BC's lead grew to as many as 21 points with 14:50 to play.
Barton finished the night 9 of 15 from 3-point range (60 percent) and shot 56 percent overall from the field (35 of 62).
The Trojans made nearly 50 percent from the floor (25 of 53), but the Bulldogs had more chances by enjoying a rebound margin of 12 (36 to 24).
Barton will now turn its attention to Limestone, which advanced to the semifinals with a 68-56 win over Lees-McRae College on Tuesday. The Bulldogs and Saints split their regular-season meetings, each winning on their home court. Barton took a 67-66 victory in Wilson on January 19, and Limestone produced a 90-56 rout in Gaffney, S.C., just over a week later.
The two sides also met last season in the Conference Carolinas Tournament, with the second-seeded Bulldogs edging the third-seeded Saints, 76-71, in a game played at King University.
Limestone features two of the league's top five scorers in Shaun Stewart and Shaq Dance, who together average 40 points per outing.