by Doug Page
PEMBROKE, N.C. – The Barton College men's basketball team experienced a cold-start on Tuesday night, shooting 37.9 percent in the first half. Despite receiving a career-high 20 points from sophomore Jeff Gordon and out-scoring the Braves 53-44 in the second half, No. 22 UNC Pembroke held on to defeat the Bulldogs 94-88 at Lumbee Bank Court.
The Bulldogs (2-4) took 40 shots in the second half, hitting 19 of them but couldn't complete the comeback after trailing by 15 points at halftime. UNC Pembroke (3-1) struggled from three-point range, shooting just 21.4 percent but connected on 52.3 percent of its shots from inside the arc.
Gordon finished the game 8-of-13 from the field, including a 4-for-5 effort from downtown for Barton, while junior Bobby Stenborg added 18 points for the Bulldogs on 6-of-12 shooting from the floor and a 6-for-6 night at the free-throw line. Stenborg also pulled-down a team-high eight rebounds and dished out four assists. Junior Zach Grant went 5-of-7 from the floor and 2-of-2 from downtown to finish with 14 points while adding three assists and two steals for the Bulldogs.
The Braves were led by 16 points from Nigel Grant, who finished 6-of-9 from the field. Brandon Watts, David Strother, and Tyrell Kirk combined to score 45 points for UNCP. Akia Pruitt added 12 points, seven rebounds, and four blocks for the Braves as UNCP recorded 11 blocks in the contest.
Barton kept things close early in the contest as Gordon drained his first three of the night to trim the UNCP lead to 7-6 with just under 17 minutes remaining. Gordon would then knot the score 13-13 with a trey and be followed with a pair of made free-throws from sophomore Michael Boykin to give the Bulldogs their first lead of the night.
Strother quickly tied the contest (15-15) with a jumper, which would be the only bucket for either side over the next two-plus minutes of action. Junior Matt Woods stopped the drought for BC as he drained a jumper to give his team a 17-15 advantage. UNCP answered by going on a 9-0 run to turn a 20-19 deficit into a 28-20 lead with 8:05 left in the half. The Braves upped their lead to 36-22 before Grant added a pair of points for Barton.
UNCP closed the half with a layup at the buzzer from Watts which followed a pair of made free-throws by Boykin with 10 seconds left. Despite going just 3-of-12 from downtown in the half, UNCP went 18-of-37 from the floor, while BC went 11-of-29 from the floor and 3-of-6 from three-point range.
Sophomore Isaiah Buck-Lowman helped BC trim the UNCP lead to 56-42 with 15:57 left in the second half, while Grant delivered his second trey of the night for the Bulldogs to pull his team within 11 points. Buck-Lowman and Gordon continued the run for Barton, who cut the Braves' lead to 56-49 with 14:15 left on the clock. UNCP ended its drought with a bucket at the 14:04 mark.
Barton closed the gap to three points (62-59) after a three from Gordon, but the Braves would eventually stretch their lead to 68-60 following a pair of free-throws from Micah Kinsey. The Bulldogs made another push with less than three minutes remaining in the contest as Gordon trimmed the UNCP lead to 84-82. The Braves, however, quickly stretched their lead back to 88-82 with a layup from Strother.
Grant made one of his two free-throws for BC with 15 seconds remaining to cut the UNCP lead to 92-88. With nine seconds left, BC had a pair of opportunities to get closer on the scoreboard but missed a jumper and tip-in which led to a turnover with three ticks left on the clock. The Braves hit both free-throws to round-out the scoring for the 94-88 victory.
The Bulldogs went 30-of-69 from the field in the contest and 7-of-15 from three-point range, while UNCP went 34-of-65 from the floor and 23-of-35 from the charity stripe. The Bulldogs out-rebounded the Braves 43-38 but were forced into 18 turnovers compared to 12 for UNCP. The Braves also tallied 14 steals on the night as Kirk paced UNCP with five.
Barton opens a four-game homestand beginning with Conference Carolinas foe Belmont Abbey College on Nov. 29 at 7:30 p.m. in Wilson, N.C.