Bulldogs ground Flying Fleet 70-61

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Host Barton College held Erskine to 20 points in the first half and parlayed that into a 70-61 NCAA Division II Conference Carolinas men’s basketball victory Saturday in Wilson Gym.

The Bulldogs, now 4-4 overall, improved to 2-0 in conference play while the Flying Fleet exited 3-6 overall in 1-2 in league games.

“I was really proud of our team,” Barton head coach Ron Lievense said. “Erskine is a very talented team and they have a really good big guy in the middle and they have good shooters from the perimeter and you have to defend well to beat them.

“I thought our guys did a great job defensively. I thought it was a great win. With our team having to learn on the fly, every game is a day to develop as a team. ... Every game that we’re going to be in is going to be a tough game.”

Lievense was referring to Erskine 6-foot-9 junior center Austin Venable, who had scored over 20 points in each of the Fleet’s last two games. With 6-foot-6 sophomore Isaiah Buck-Lowman and 6-5 junior Bobby Stenborg handling most of the defensive duties, Venable was held to just nine points and six rebounds before fouling out.

Meanwhile, Buck-Lowman, who still coming back from a leg injury he suffered in the preseason, led Barton with 15 points and nine rebounds.

“It’s great to see him getting back in the swing of things because we really need him,” Lievense said.

Sophomore guard Jeff Gordon had 13 points and six rebounds for Barton while Stenborg added 11 points and his usual emotional lift.

“He just brings such energy and intensity every single night out,” Lievense said of the Brunswick Community College transfer.

Blake Maness drained a 3-pointer on Erskine’s first possession for the game’s opening basket but the Bulldogs scored the next eight points, including four by starting point guard Matt Woods, to take control. Erskine managed to tie the score at 14-all with 8:08 but it was all Barton after that.

Barton managed to build its lead with sophomore Michael Boykin on the bench with foul trouble for all but five minutes of the first half. Woods and fellow junior Zach Grant helped pick up the slack.

“I thought Matt and Zach did a really good job,” Lievense said. “They were consistent on the floor and we took care of the basketball.”

The Bulldogs led by as many as 18 points in the second half and only a late run by the Fleet kept the victory under double digits.

The Bulldogs made 11 of 12 free-throw attempts in the second half to keep the Fleet at bay. Barton finished 15 of 19 from the line while Erskine was just 5 of 7.

That helped Barton make up for a 3-of-12 performance from 3-point range while the Fleet connected on 12 of its 22 attempts from long range.

Lievense also proudly noted the Bulldogs dominated the backboards, pulling down 42 rebounds to 31 for Erskine.

The Bulldogs start exams on Friday but will take a break to host Emmanuel on Saturday in Wilson Gym.