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After arguably their best performance of the season Saturday evening, Barton College men’s basketball players were treated to some impromptu postgame entertainment courtesy of head coach Ron Lievense.
“Coach did a little dance for us in the locker room!” said sophomore guard Michael Boykin, who had a season-high 24 points in the Bulldogs’ 95-78 victory against Emmanuel in Wilson Gym.
Boykin netted 18 of those points in the first half that was quantifiably Barton’s best of the season. The Bulldogs shot 52.5 percent from the floor and pulled down 32 rebounds, both season highs for the first half, as they built a 53-44 lead going into halftime. Barton finished at 50.7-percent accuracy in putting up a season-high point total while holding the Lions to a season low. If that wasn’t enough to make Lievense dance, the Bulldogs’ season-best 56 rebounds certainly were.
“You know our guys had to do a really good job against them,” Barton head coach said in his typical stoic postgame manner. “I was really proud that we held a team that was averaging over 93 a game to 78. I thought we defended well.
“Whenever we defend and rebound, we have a chance to beat people because that’s what we work on every day. Those are two things we did today.”
It was the third straight win, all in NCAA Division II Conference Carolinas play, for the Bulldogs as they climbed to 5-4 overall and into first place by themselves at 3-0. Barton will host UNC Pembroke for a nonconference matchup Thursday. Emmanuel departed 3-4 in all games and 1-2 in conference play.
“I think it was our best (performance),” said sophomore forward Isaiah Buck-Lowman, who finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds. “Usually, so far everything’s kind of been close but today we pushed the tempo, got it moving, got it going.”
Barton surged to an 18-5 lead just before the first media timeout of the half and kept its lead at double digits the rest of the game. With Boykin and sophomore Jeff Gordon, who had 16 points and 11 rebounds, leading the way, the Bulldogs repeatedly carved through the Lions defense for layups and short jumpers.
“It was just all of my teammates finding me when I was open,” said Boykin, who also had seven rebound and three steals. “We all do a good job of moving the ball around and not being selfish out there.”
Freshman Blake Burdack added 10 points as 11 different Bulldogs scored and 10 had at least one rebound.
For a team that is not going to try to beat anyone from the perimeter (Barton ranks last in Conference Carolinas in 3-pointers made and attempted at 46 of 138), getting to the hoop is the key. The Bulldogs scored 58 points in the paint Saturday.
“This year there’s been a big focus on passing and attacking and going inside out,” Buck-Lowman said. “When we go inside out, that’s usually when we knock the 3s down.”
If there was a downside to Saturday’s win, it was Barton’s 18 turnovers and lack of focus at times when it seemed the Bulldogs simply grew bored of attacking the basket and turned to long-range shots. Barton finished 3 of 16 from behind the arc.
“We had spurts in the second half where we let them come back,” Boykin said. “I think they got it down to about eight (actually 12), so we’ve got to grow in that aspect of closing games out.”
Emmanuel, which shot just 30.8 percent in the first half and 36.1 percent (26 of 72) was led by Emerson McClung with 22 points while Kendrick Colvin came off the bench to score 17.