by Doug Page
WILSON, N.C. – The Barton College men's basketball team held nationally-ranked No. 18 Virginia State University to a season-low 59 points on Tuesday but were outscored by seven points in the second-half as VSU escaped with a 59-54 non-conference win against the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs (7-6) dropped their second consecutive game after putting together a season-high five-game winning streak early this season. Barton shot just 31.3 percent from the field in the second-half and went 3-of-11 from downtown, while Virginia State (11-1) struggled from the floor in the first-half, shooting 27.8 percent but responded by hitting 41.2 percent of its shots in the second-half as the Trojans avoided being the second ranked team this season to drop a game inside Wilson Gym.
Sophomore Isaiah Buck-Lowman finished with a game-high 16 points for BC, going 8-of-11 from the free-throw line. Freshman Blake Burdack recorded nine points on 3-of-5 shooting to go along with eight rebounds and two blocks. Sophomore Michael Boykin and freshman Jake Kakar each tallied eight points for the Bulldogs, while sophomore Jeff Gordon pulled-down a team-high nine boards.
The Trojans were paced by a game-high 16 points and 12 rebounds from Richard Granberry, who finished 7-of-13 from the field to go along with four steals. Trey Brown added nine points and seven rebounds for VSU, while Walter Williams tallied seven points to go along with seven boards for the Trojans.
VSU took control of the game early in the opening half against Barton as Granberry guided the Trojans' offense. Virginia State, who entered play Tuesday hitting nearly nine three-pointers per game struggled from downtown as they went just 1-of-14. The Bulldogs kept things close by earning their way to the charity stripe as BC connected on 71.4 percent (10-of-14) of its chances.
Barton started its comeback with 3:39 left in the half as Burdack converted a pair of opportunities at the free-throw line to trim the VSU lead to 24-20. Buck-Lowman would then put the BC offense on his shoulders, scoring the final six points of the half to cap-off an 8-0 run by the Bulldogs to send them into the half with a 26-24 lead.
The Bulldogs started the second-half by doubling their lead after Gordon hit a pair of shots at the line to make it 28-24. Virginia State's Brandon Holley quickly trimmed the gap to one as his three-ball made it 28-27. Buck-Lowman gave Barton a five-point edge before the Trojans rallied to knot the score 32-32 after another three from Holley.
Boykin tied the game 34-34 for BC with 16:15 left in the contest following a jumper and would be the only bucket for either side until Brown drained a trey for VSU with 14:09 on the clock to give the Trojans a 37-34 lead. The lead would change hands several times over the next 10 minutes as neither side could take complete control of the score. The Trojans opened-up a three-point lead with 3:33 left as Williams made it 54-51 but saw the game tied once again as Boykin drained a three-ball to make it 54-54.
BC had several good looks at potentially taking a lead as Buck-Lowman missed an opportunity with 1:27 left followed by a three-point chance with 1:20 left. Granberry would hit the eventual game-winner for the Trojans as his jumper with 46 seconds remaining made it 56-54. VSU would end the game on a 5-0 run en route to securing the 59-54 victory.
BC held the Trojans to 21 fewer points than their average of 80.8 as VSU shot 24-of-70 from the field in the contest and 4-of-23 from downtown. Barton went 17-of-52 from the field and 5-of-19 from downtown, while being out-rebounded 45-41 by Virginia State. The Trojans forced Barton into 19 turnovers while committing just 14 themselves. The 59 points scored by the Trojans is a season-low (win or loss) as VSU scored 66 points on two separate occasions earlier this season.
Barton will open a three-game homestand against Conference Carolinas foes beginning with Lees-McRae on Jan. 5 at 7:30 p.m.