by Benny Benton
BELMONT, N.C. – The Barton College men's basketball team's four-game road swing to close out the regular-season got off to a successful start on Wednesday, as the Bulldogs downed Belmont Abbey, 94-76, in a Conference Carolinas matchup at the Wheeler Center.
The win was Barton's third in a row, all by 15 points or more. Belmont Abbey (10-14, 5-9) dropped its third in a row with the loss.
All five starters scored in double-figures for Barton (14-11, 10-5), led by junior Bobby Stenborg's 21 points. The Garner, N.C., resident was 10-of-15 from the field, one of the factors in the Bulldogs shooting 58 percent from the floor in the game.
Many of BC's inside points were set up by passes from sophomore Michael Boykin, who handed out a career-high eight assists.
Boykin also contributed 14 points and six rebounds, as did fellow sophomore Jeff Gordon. Sophomore Isaiah Buck-Lowman chipped in 18 points, and junior Matt Woods added 10. Together, Barton's starters scored 77 of the team's 94 points, one more than Belmont Abbey's total for the night.
Belmont Abbey was paced by 18 points from DeQuan Abrom and 16 from Jacob Wilson.
The two teams battled through nine lead changes and four ties in the early going before Barton took the lead for good at 16-15 on a jumper by Zach Grant with 13:19 left in the first half. Stenborg followed with a three-point play and Isaiah Reddish slammed home a dunk before Grant put a bookend on the 9-0 run with another jumper that gave BC a 23-15 cushion with 11:27 remaining before intermission.
The Crusaders closed to within two points, fell behind by seven again, and then fought back to within three at 43-40 on a jumper by Wilson with 1:54 to go in the half. However, Barton went on a 6-0 run to close out the period, capped by a dunk from Boykin, to take a 49-40 advantage into the break.
Consecutive layups by Belmont Abbey's Deion Lane to open the second half trimmed Barton's lead to five at 49-44, but Stenborg made a jumper and Gordon drained a 3-pointer on BC's next two possessions to push the Bulldogs' lead to double-digits for the first time, 54-44.
Markel Pollard's layup on BAC's next possession pulled the Crusaders back within single digits one last time, but Belmont Abbey scored just two points in nearly five minutes of game action, and Barton pulled away to a comfortable 63-48 advantage with just over 13 minutes to play.
Barton eventually stretched its lead to as many as 26 points at 94-68 with 1:24 remaining before the Crusaders scored the last eight points of the contest to trim the final margin.
The Bulldogs committed just eight turnovers in the game, one off their lowest total of the season. Led by Boykin, Barton handed out 19 assists as a team, matching its second-best total of the year.
Barton will have a rare weekend off before hitting the road again for a Valentine's Day battle at Erskine College next Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.