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The start of Isaiah Buck-Lowman’s junior season at Barton College was ravaged by injury in missing the first seven games.
But the early season in college basketball has given way to the postseason. And an able-bodied Buck-Lowman is a big reason why the Bulldogs will march on to the 2019 Conference Carolinas semifinals.
With Barton trailing by as many as 14 points with 8:52 remaining in Tuesday’s Conference Carolinas quarterfinal against King University, Buck-Lowman, coming off the bench, was a perfect 5 for 5 from 3-point range in the second half.
His final shot from long range was arguably his biggest, giving the Bulldogs their first lead of the second half with one minute remaining and ultimately propelling Barton to a 95-89 overtime victory.
Barton, the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament, improved to 22-7 overall and faces No. 2 Belmont Abbey in Saturday’s semifinal on the campus of Emmanuel College. Emmanuel, the top seed in the tournament, earned the right to host the remainder of the event after defeating No. 8 Lees-McRae in other quarterfinal action Tuesday.
King, the No. 6 seed, had its season ended at 15-14.
“When things looked bad, our kids showed amazing heart and passion,” veteran Barton head coach Ron Lievense said. “Isaiah has been really coming along these last three or four weeks, and I’m really proud of what he’s been giving to our guys.
Buck-Lowman’s 18 points off the bench matched the team high of sophomore Isaiah Reddish, who finished with 18 points and six rebounds.
But in the final two minutes of regulation, it was Buck-Lowman who kept the Bulldogs’ chance of returning to the NCAA Division II tournament alive. His fourth 3-pointer of the half with 1:51 remaining pulled Barton, which had teased runs throughout the second half, to within one at 80-79. Then, once Barton forced a shot clock violation with 1:17 to go, the Bulldogs found Buck-Lowman again. He knocked down his fifth 3-pointer of the half, and Barton owned an 82-80 lead.
“I felt good,” Buck-Lowman said. “Once the lights come on, I’m ready to go. Whatever the team needs from me, I’m ready to give it. Personally, I was thinking possession by possession. I was telling them, let’s just take it one step at a time, one score at a time. But mainly just getting stop, score, stop score.”
Barton didn’t do a good job of generating stops in the first half, allowing the Tornado to shoot 17 of 24 for 70.8 percent accuracy in that span. Entering play making just over nine 3-pointers per game, King knocked down 14 against the Bulldogs in threatening to end their season. However, Barton never trailed in overtime, in holding King to just 20 percent on 1-for-5 shooting from the field.
Barton connected on 31 of 66 shots for 47 percent accuracy, while battling back against a Tornado squad that trended down in their shooting as matters moved along. Yet buoyed by its strong opening half, King finished 31 for 57 for 54.4 percent.
Four of five starters finished in double figures for King, including the 24 points of Justin Frazier. Desmond Davis added 20.
The Bulldogs, who were without sophomore sharpshooter Jake Kakar due to a sprain sustained Monday, did have to avoid succumbing to a last-second shot in regulation. Kakar was on the bench in a walking boot.
Senior Zach Grant missed a layup with 32 seconds left in a tie game, giving King one more opportunity. But tough defense didn’t allow the shot to draw iron, and the rebound settled in the hands of senior Bobby Stenborg as the horn went off prematurely.
The officials huddled and put two seconds back on the clock. Inbounding the length of the floor, Barton whisked the ball to senior Matt Woods on the wing, but his wide-open look missed as time expired, forcing overtime.
Barton led by as many as six in the extra period at 89-83 on Reddish’s jumper, and junior Michael Boykin was fouled in 3-point territory with 51.8 seconds left and the Bulldogs holding an 89-85 lead.
The Bulldogs, who shot 24 of 32 from the foul line, outpaced King’s 13-for-18 showing. Woods was 7 for 7 at the line, including four free throws in overtime.
Woods had 14 points for Barton, while Boykin added 13.
Indeed, Barton, which entered play ranked No. 10 in the official Div. II Southeast region rankings put out by the NCAA, will survive to play another night. A new set of rankings will be released Wednesday and will be the final barometer prior the conclusion of Barton’s tournament run.
“We’re on the outside looking in,” Lievense confirmed. “We’ve just got to keep winning games.”