by Doug Page
MOUNT OLIVE, N.C. – The Barton College men's basketball team did its job down the stretch in the second half of Friday's matchup against Virginia Union University, going 12-of-14 from the free-throw line over the final 7:24 of action en route to a 74-66 victory against the Panthers in the 52nd Pickle Classic.
The Bulldogs (1-3) took the lead (56-54) for good following a layup by freshman Isaiah Reddish with 7:54 remaining in the contest. Virginia Union (1-3) used a 5-0 run to take a 35-34 lead into the locker room and started the second-half on fire but shot just 36.7 percent from the field after shooting 51.7 percent to open the contest.
Burdack finished the game 4-of-5 from the field, including a 4-for-4 effort from the free-throw line for Barton, while junior Bobby Stenborg added a team-high 13 points for the Bulldogs on 4-of-6 shooting from the floor and a 5-for-8 night at the free-throw line. Stenborg also recorded a team-high seven rebounds for BC, while sophomores Jeff Gordon and Isaiah Buck-Lowman tallied 10 points each for the Bulldogs.
The Panthers were led by a game-high 14 points from Kori Cooley, who finished 6-of-12 from the field. Cooley also dished-out a game-high nine assists, while James Paige added 13 points and seven rebounds for Virginia Union. Todd Hughes tallied 10 points on the night for the Panthers.
Junior Zach Grant gave BC an early 9-6 lead after hitting a trey with 16:25 left in the first half, while sophomore Michael Boykin drained his lone three-pointer to knot the score 14-14 later in the half.
With time winding down in the half, Boykin hit a jumper with 1:48 left on the clock to give the Bulldogs a 34-30 advantage over the Panthers. Virginia Union quickly answered by draining a three as Micah Thomas pulled his team to within one at 34-33. Jemal Smith created a turnover for the Panthers and finished-off the play by giving VUU a 35-34 lead and a shot at the line after he was fouled. Following the missed free-throw attempt, Grant tossed-up a trey that would miss and send the Bulldogs into the half trailing by a single point.
Barton shot 11-of-23 from the field and 4-of-8 from downtown in the half, while the Panthers went 15-of-29 from the field and 1-of-6 from the charity stripe.
The Bulldogs eventually worked their way back into the game as Grant connected for his second trey of the night to knot the score 37-37. Stenborg then gave BC a 39-37 lead following a missed shot by Paige with 18:05 remaining in the half. Stenborg would later give Barton a 44-37 advantage after finishing a layup off a Virginia Union turnover.
Virginia Union trimmed the deficit to 44-41 after back-to-back buckets from Paige with 15:34 left in the contest. The Panthers would cut the BC lead to just two points on several occasions and eventually even the score (47-47) after a layup from Cooley.
Trailing 52-50, Buck-Lowman would be fouled, sending him to the line for a pair of free-throw attempts. He connected on both tries, knotting the score 52-52. BC faced the same scenario with 9:42 remaining in the contest as Gordon went to the line for a pair of shots with the Bulldogs trailing 54-52. Gordon hit both shots to tie the game and propelled Barton to eventually take a 56-54 lead as he worked the ball to Reddish with 7:54 on the clock.
Stenborg battled to give Barton a 65-59 lead with just over two minutes left to play, finding his own rebound to finish the play. VUU would trim the BC lead to 65-63 after getting a three from Thomas but see Gordon make it 67-63 after hitting a jumper. Gordon then sealed the game for BC at the line, hitting a pair of free-throws to give the Bulldogs a 74-66 advantage.
The Bulldogs went 21-of-46 from the field in the contest and 26-of-31 (83.9 percent) at the free-throw line, while Virginia Union went 26-of-59 from the floor and 11-of-16 from the charity stripe. Barton finished the game 6-of-15 from three-point range, while the Panthers were just 3-of-12. Virginia Union out-rebounded BC 34-28 but committed 14 turnovers.
Barton faces Saint Augustine's on Saturday night at 5 p.m., as the Bulldogs will look to go 2-0 in the 52nd Pickle Classic, which is hosted by the University of Mount Olive. BC then travels to face UNC-Pembroke on Nov. 21 and will open Conference Carolinas play at home against Belmont Abbey on Nov. 29 in Wilson, N.C.