by Doug Page
WILSON, N.C. – The Barton College men's basketball team led for 34:46 against Conference Carolinas rival, the University of Mount Olive but a jumper by Jamaal Matin with 29 seconds remaining on the clock gave the Trojans a 76-75 comeback victory over the Bulldogs on Wednesday night.
The Bulldogs (9-7, 5-1) dropped their first conference matchup this season in front of a packed Wilson Gymnasium. Barton shot just 37.5 percent from the field in the second half, while the Trojans (10-5, 6-0) erased a 12-point first-half deficit by outscoring BC 41-28 down the stretch.
Sophomore Jeff Gordon notched a game-high 18 points for Barton, finishing 7-of-12 from the floor with seven rebounds. Junior Bobby Stenborg and sophomore Isaiah Buck-Lowman each recorded 14 points for the Bulldogs, while sophomore Michael Boykin finished the game with seven points, six rebounds, and six assists.
The Trojans were paced by a game-high 18 points and 10 rebounds from Dominique Tham, who finished 8-of-13 from the field to go along with four steals. Cameron Robinson added 12 points and went 3-of-7 from downtown for UMO, while Matin tallied nine points to go along with six boards for the Trojans.
Mount Olive had the upper-hand early in the contest, taking a quick 4-0 lead following back-to-back buckets from Tham. Junior Matt Woods trimmed the deficit to 8-4 for Barton with 16:56 remaining in the half and sparked a rally for the Bulldogs, who rallied to even the score at 8-8. Boykin gave BC its first lead of the night with 15:16 on the clock as he hit a layup on the fast-break.
Barton upped its lead to 12-8 before Darius Spragley ended the run with a layup in the paint. Freshman Jake Kakar answered for BC by hitting a three-pointer to make it 15-10 in favor of the Bulldogs. Gordon would give Barton its first double-digit lead of the contest after draining a three to make it 27-16 with 9:01 left in the half. The trey capped-off a 7-0 run for BC.
The largest lead of the half for Barton came with 4:16 left as Gordon finished a layup in the paint to make it 40-27. The Trojans made a push offensively, trimming the gap to eight points with less than two minutes left in the half. A dunk by Don Pigford made it 41-33 on the scoreboard after taking a feed from Tyler Thomas. Barton ended the half with a 6-2 run to take a 47-35 lead into the break. The Bulldogs made the most of their work inside the paint, outscoring UMO 34-20, while also making the Trojans pay for their turnovers to the tune of 13 points.
The Bulldogs held onto their double-digit lead for a majority of the second half as freshman Isaiah Reddish made it 54-44 with 15:48 remaining after the Trojans trimmed the deficit to eight points. UMO stayed aggressive, cutting the BC lead down to six points with 14:49 left. Barton would counter with an 8-1 run and stretch its lead back to 13 points as Gordon made it 62-49 with a layup after a steal by Boykin.
With just over nine minutes remaining in the contest, UMO would make things interesting as Robinson connected on a three-ball to cut the BC lead to just four (66-62). Gordon hit a pair of free-throws for BC to take the lead back to six before Robinson came back with another trey for UMO. Trailing by three, Alan Treakle made good on a pair of free-throws to pull the Trojans within one (68-67).
A 7-0 run by Barton would get the home-crowd going as BC fed off the energy inside Wilson Gym to up its lead to eight (75-67) with 3:44 remaining. The unfortunate part for the Barton fans in attendance would be the 9-0 run by Mount Olive to end the game and completed the comeback bid. Robinson hit his third trey of the half for UMO to cut the deficit to 75-72 and would keep rolling, hitting a layup to make it 75-74 Barton. Both sides would have plenty of opportunities over the next two minutes of play to change the momentum, only to see BC miss each of its next two chances and UMO miss a pair of three's before taking the lead with 29 seconds left.
Following a missed layup by Stenborg, Matin would find himself with the ball in his hands and would make-good for the Trojans by connecting to give UMO a 76-75 lead. Barton had one final chance to try and secure a last-second victory but a missed layup by Boykin with two ticks left followed by a foul would end the contest. The Bulldogs committed four turnovers over the final 2:46 of the half and saw UMO score four crucial points in that stretch.
Barton finished the game 29-of-60 from the field (48.3 percent) and 5-of-12 from downtown, while UMO went 30-of-71 from the field (42.3 percent) and 5-of-18 from downtown. The Bulldogs held a slight advantage in rebounds (39-35) and went 12-of-17 at the charity stripe. The Trojans forced BC into 17 turnovers on the night while committing 10 turnovers of their own.
Barton will open a three-game road trip beginning with North Greenville University on Sat. Jan. 13 at 4 p.m. The Bulldogs will also make stops at Southern Wesleyan University (Jan. 15) and Emmanuel (Jan. 20).