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A two-for-one bonus in the final five seconds from 6-foot-6 sophomore Isaiah Buck-Lowman vaulted the Barton College men’s basketball team to a crowd-rousing 78-76 nail-biter against Belmont Abbey in the NCAA Division II Conference Carolinas opener for both teams in Wilson Gymnasium on Wednesday evening.
With the score knotted at 76-76, Buck-Lowman fended two Belmont Abbey defenders with his left arm and managed an accurate putback with his right hand.
“One or two defenders were next to me,” Buck-Lowman replayed the game-deciding moment, “and I was trying to hold them off, control the ball and get (the basketball) back in there. (Belmont Abbey players) were trying to get the rebound and get the ball out quick.”
Buck-Lowman’s putback came off a miss from the left side from junior Matt Woods.
The Crusaders retained possession with 4.6 seconds remaining and could only manage a twisting, off-balance 3-point shot from 6-5 junior sharpshooter Ben Ferguson at the buzzer.
The Bulldogs emerged 3-4 overall, while Belmont Abbey departed at 4-4 despite a 28-point performance from 6-2 sophomore transfer DeQuan Abrom, hailed by Barton head coach Ron Lievense as one of the best players in the country.
“Just amazing,” Lievense described Buck-Lowman’s one-handed putback. “I am really proud of him for being in the right place at the right time. He just kept battling.”
Of Barton’s defense of the final shot, Lievense responded: “For them not to get a good shot with that much time left is a really good job on our guys’ part.”
Buck-Lowman guided the Bulldogs down the stretch, posting a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds. Also scoring in double figures were sophomore Jeff Gordon with 14 points and sophomore Michael Boykin with 12.
Barton was also boosted by productive minutes from freshmen Isaiah Reddish, David Campbell, 6-8 Blake Burdack and Jake Kakar.
For the Crusaders, Abrom, accurate on 12 of 18 shots from the floor, was complemented by senior Jacob Wilson with 16 points and Ferguson wth nine.
Barton claimed a 43-36 rebounding advantage and committed just 10 turnovers as compared to 16 for Belmont Abbey. The Crusaders were superior shooters from the floor (33 of 64 for 51.6-percent accuracy as compared to 32 of 73 and 43.8 percent for Barton).
The Crusaders registered the biggest lead of 18-11 as Abrom and Ferguson drained back-to-back 3-point shots. The Bulldogs spurted to a 20-20 tie on Reddish’s bucket and zipped to their biggest first-half lead of 26-20. Burdack’s field goal with 34 seconds showing resulted in a 38-36 Barton halftime lead.
The second half produced eight lead changes in the first three minutes and 13 overall .
Gordon’s field goal staked Barton to its largest second-half lead of 70-64 with 5:12 remaining. However, Abrom ended his rest with 9:18 showing and the Crusaders perked up. Abrom’s bucket provided Abbey its last lead of 71-70.
Buck-Lowman sent the Bulldogs ahead 72-71 and Boykin pushed Barton to a 76-71 lead with 49 seconds to go. However, Wilson, who turned offensive the second half, rattled in a 3-point shot. Suddenly a steal under Barton’s basket and a resulting lay-in from Abrom resulted in a 76-76 standoff with 34 seconds left.
“I saw my team needed somebody to step up,” Buck-Lowman commented, “and I took it upon myself. It feels great; this is a really big win for us.
“I needed to be aggressive on the boards, score and get my teammates the ball. This brought us together as a team and we’ll try to keep rolling.”
Lievense assured Buck-Lowman responding with a strong performance was “good to see because he has been injured a lot early on.” Godon also drew his coach’s praise.
Lievense reminded the outcome was just a blip in a huge learning curve for his young team that has played, in his words, the most difficult schedule ever. The next challenge when the Bulldogs welcome conference foe Erskine (South Carolina) College on Saturday evening at approximately 7:30 is learning to handle a win.
“The guys are responding well,” Barton’s veteran head coach remarked. “We have been playing well and have done some really good things. I’m really proud of this team and proud of where we’re growing to.”
Lievense reflected on tough early-season losses and emphasized his Bulldogs really needed a win Wednesday night because of their hard work.
“To win a really tight game is important,” he added. “You get a win and you’re all encouraged.”