Resilient Bulldogs down No. 21 UNC Pembroke, 89-85

Archived photo of junior guard Zach Grant, who scored a career-high 19 points for the Bulldogs in an 89-85 win at home on Thursday against No. 21 UNC Pembroke. | Photo by Matt Proseus
Archived photo of junior guard Zach Grant, who scored a career-high 19 points for the Bulldogs in an 89-85 win at home on Thursday against No. 21 UNC Pembroke. | Photo by Matt Proseus

by Doug Page

WILSON, N.C. – The Barton College men's basketball team shot 63.3 percent from the floor in the second-half and took the lead for good following a free-throw from sophomore Isaiah Buck-Lowman with 6:53 remaining as the Bulldogs completed the upset against No. 21 UNC Pembroke, 89-95, on Thursday at Wilson Gymnasium.

The Bulldogs (6-4) won their fourth-straight contest, using a crucial 9-0 run to turn a 65-60 deficit into a 69-65 lead with 6:53 left in the second-half. The win against the nationally-ranked Braves is the second for BC at home over the past two seasons as Barton handed then No. 24 Limestone College a 67-66 loss on Jan. 19, 2017 in Wilson. UNCP (5-2) struggled from the floor, shooting 44.6 percent but hit 11 threes in trying to complete the second-half comeback.

Grant finished the game 8-of-11 from the field, including a 3-for-5 effort from downtown for Barton, while junior Bobby Stenborg added 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting and seven rebounds for the Bulldogs. Sophomore Michael Boykin recorded 17 points, six boards, and a team-high four assists, while Buck-Lowman tallied 14 points and five rebounds.

The Braves were paced by a game-high 22 points from David Strother, who finished 8-of-12 from the field and 6-of-9 from downtown. Brandon Watts added 16 points and three blocks for UNCP, while Akia Pruitt tallied 15 points to go along with seven boards and three blocks for the Braves.

UNCP would control the tempo for a majority of the opening half as the Braves took a quick 4-0 lead following a layup from Nigel Grant less than a minute into play. BC would knot the score at 4-4 as sophomore Jeff Gordon hit a jumper following a block by UNCP. Tyrell Kirk drained his only three of the contest with 16:24 left in the half to cap a 6-0 run for the Braves, which gave them a 10-4 lead.

Grant upped the UNCP lead to 16-8 with just under 15 minutes to play in the half and it would be the only bucket for either team over the next two minutes of action. Boykin ended the drought by finishing a layup for BC to trim the deficit to 16-10. The next scoring-drought for both sides came with 9:50 left as Buck-Lowman hit a jumper for the Bulldogs to pull BC within four-points of the Braves. The next points wouldn't come until 3:04 later as Micah Kinsey connected on a pair of free-throws to give his team a 20-14 advantage.

Barton kept the score within two-points until UNCP opened-up a seven-point edge after a three from Watts. Freshman Blake Burdack started a 5-0 run for Barton with a layup that trimmed the score to 29-25. Grant hit a huge trey for BC to make it a one-point game (29-28) with 2:06 left. The Braves closed the half on a 7-2 run to take a 36-30 lead into the locker room.

The Bulldogs started off the scoring in the second-half as Grant drained a three to cut the UNCP lead to 36-33. The Braves would answer, however, using a 6-0 run to quickly stretch the led back to nine at 42-33. Barton stayed resilient on the offensive side of the court, working to cut the gap to 42-40 after Gordon hit a layup with 17:12 left in the contest. UNCP ended an almost four-minute scoring drought with an old-fashioned three-point play from Grant to up the Braves' lead to 45-40.

Junior Chris Cook found the perfect time to record his only bucket of the night as he knotted the score for BC at 58-58 with 10:30 remaining. UNCP quickly took the lead back as Grant went 1-for-2 at the line to give the Braves a one-point cushion. Burdack would give the Bulldogs a 60-59 lead before UNCP pieced together a 6-0 run with 8:10 remaining to make it a 65-60 contest.

Boykin and Grant would change the atmosphere inside Wilson Gymnasium as a pair of free-throws from Boykin and a clutch three by Grant energized the home-crowd and evened the score 65-65 with 7:46 remaining in the half. Buck-Lowman drained his lone trey of the contest off a feed from Boykin to give BC a 69-65 advantage.

Stenborg gave BC its largest lead of the night with 2:54 remaining, hitting a pair of free-throws to make it 77-71. Strother would then take over the UNCP offense, scoring all 14 of the Braves points over the final 2:50 of action. Strother finished the contest by hitting five of the seven threes taken by UNCP, including the last-four with his sixth three of the contest coming with five seconds remaining. Barton did its job at the charity stripe in the half to secure the 89-85 victory, going 17-of-24 at the line, compared to an 11-of-20 effort from UNCP.

The Bulldogs went 33-of-67 from the field in the contest and 6-of-16 from three-point range, while UNCP went 29-of-65 from the floor and 12-of-27 from three-point range. The Bulldogs out-rebounded the Braves 43-37 with Burdack pulling-down a game-high nine boards. Both teams turned the ball over 12 times in the contest and UNCP recorded nine blocks as a team. Barton out-scored UNCP 46-28 inside the paint with the Braves focus switching to the three-ball late in the second-half.

Barton hits the road for its final two contests of 2017 as BC travels to Greenville, Tenn. for a matchup with Tusculum on Dec. 19 at 4 p.m. The Bulldogs close-out the year on Dec. 30 with a 4 p.m. tip-off against Shaw in Raleigh, N.C.