Barton survives furious Tusculum rally to post 100-97 victory for fifth straight win

Archived photo of sophomore Isaiah Buck-Lowman, who scored a game-high 29 points in leading the Bulldogs to a 100-97 win at Tusculum College on Tuesday. | Photo by Matt Proseus
Archived photo of sophomore Isaiah Buck-Lowman, who scored a game-high 29 points in leading the Bulldogs to a 100-97 win at Tusculum College on Tuesday. | Photo by Matt Proseus

by Benny Benton

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. – Barton College stormed out to a 23-point first-half lead, then survived a barrage of 3-pointers from Tusculum College to squeak out a 100-97 road win on Tuesday at Pioneer Arena.

Sophomore Isaiah Buck-Lowman led Barton (7-4) with a career-high 29 points, and junior transfer Bobby Stenborg posted his first double-double as a Bulldog, collecting 20 points and 11 rebounds. Sophomore Michael Boykin chipped in 19 points, and sophomore Jeff Gordon contributed 18 points, seven boards and five assists for BC, which has now won five games in a row and six of its last seven.

Tusculum (3-9) was paced by senior Ronnie Baylark, who matched his career high with 25 points. All five starters for the Pioneers scored at least 14 points, and six different players contributed to Tusculum's 14 made 3-pointers.

Using sharp mid-range shooting and crisp passing for inside layups, Barton made 17 of its first 24 attempts from the field (71 percent) and collected assists on 13 of them. Tusculum, by contrast, missed its first eight 3-point tries and was just 5 of 19 (26 percent) from the floor overall. The result was a 36-13 lead for the Bulldogs following a jumper by Gordon with 8:17 left in the first half.

However, the Pioneers began to find their range from beyond the arc at that point, draining their next three 3-pointers to kick-start the long road back.

Tusculum cut the deficit to 12 points at intermission, 49-37, and climbed back within single digits early in the second period. Barton regained control and led by 14 with 10:02 left in the game, 72-58, but the Pioneers used a pair of 3-pointers and a pair of BC turnovers to go on a 12-1 run and get within three at 73-70.

Buck-Lowman scored Barton's next eight points on a pair of 3-pointers and two free throws, and the Bulldogs moved the lead back into double-digits once more with just over four minutes to go.

Barton seemed to have withstood the Tusculum rally when two Boykin free throws gave the Bulldogs a 97-89 advantage with 38 seconds to play, but a dunk by Elon Smallwood and 3-pointers by Zach Hartle and Donovan Donaldson in a span of just 21 seconds pulled the Pioneers within a point at 98-97.

Zach Grant sank two free throws with 13 seconds remaining to give Barton a 100-97 lead, but the victory was not assured until a Baylark 3-point attempt from the right corner missed with two seconds remaining.

Despite its slow start, Tusculum finished the game 36 of 66 from the field (55 percent), including 14 of 32 from 3-point range (43 percent). The Pioneers were 10 of 18 from beyond the arc (56 percent) in the second half.

Barton was strong from the floor throughout the game, shooting 61 percent for the game (38 of 62). The Bulldogs took just seven shots from 3-point range, making three (43 percent). BC was 21 of 28 from the foul line, 75 percent, including 10 of 12 (83 percent) over the game's final 1:15.

The Bulldogs enjoyed a 36 to 27 edge in rebounding, and both teams turned the ball over 16 times.   

Barton will take a break for Christmas before returning to action on Saturday, Dec. 30, at Shaw University in Raleigh.