by Benny Benton
BANNER ELK, N.C. – The Barton College men's basketball team fell behind 19-3 to begin Saturday's Conference Carolinas contest at Lees-McRae College and never fully recovered in suffering a 105-92 loss at Williams Gymnasium.
The Bulldogs (11-11, 7-5) climbed back to within five points with 11 minutes to play and trailed by just six with 9:21 to go, but scored just one field goal over the next four minutes as the Bobcats pushed the lead back to 18 with 5:35 remaining.
The loss was BC's second in as many days. The Bulldogs have now dropped five of their last seven contests and are just 2-7 on the road this year.
Lees-McRae, coming off a victory last night over previously undefeated league-leader University of Mount Olive, is now 14-7 overall and 8-4 in conference play.
Junior Bobby Stenborg paced Barton in the loss with 24 points. Isaiah Buck-Lowman added 22 points, and Zach Grant chipped in 11. Those three players had five rebounds each to lead the Bulldogs on the boards, and Grant also collected five assists. Donte Falls led the Bobcats with 22 points and eight rebounds.
Lees-McRae made seven of its first 10 shots from the field, three of those from 3-point range, and Barton made just one of its first eight attempts from the floor. The result was the 19-3 lead for LMC less than six and a half minutes into the contest.
Barton gradually chipped away, getting the deficit back to single-digits on a Grant 3-pointer and pulling within seven at 25-18 on two David Campbell free throws.
BC trailed by nine at 46-37 following a Stenborg free throw with 1:38 left in the half, but Lees-McRae's Jason Saintizaire went on a personal 5-0 run to close the half that included back-to-back dunks. The run pushed the margin back to 14 at 51-37 and re-energized the Bobcats.
Lees-McRae held a double-digit advantage for the first five minutes of the second half and led by 15 when consecutive three-point plays by Blake Burdack and Stenborg chopped BC"s deficit down to nine at 64-55. Barton managed to stay with the Bobcats for the next several minutes, and got within five points after another three-point play by Stenborg with 11:01 to go.
The margin was six at 77-71 following a Matt Woods layup with 9:21 to play, but Barton had two missed shots and a turnover on its next three possessions. Lees-McRae took advantage by making four straight free throws and a dunk, the start of a 16-4 run that buried any hopes of a Barton comeback.
Barton actually finished the game with a higher shooting percentage than the Bobcats, 49 percent to 47 percent, but LMC took 10 more shots and made four more. The Bobcats made 10 3-pointers, twice as many as the Bulldogs. Lees-McRae out-rebounded BC 44 to 37, including 19 to 12 on the offensive glass. Those rebounds gave Lees-McRae a 24 to 12 edge in second-chance points.
The Bulldogs will return to the comforts of home, where they are 7-4 on the season, to face Limestone College on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.