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Cohesion, consistency and chemistry.
Due to a seemingly revolving door of injuries, those three “C’s” have been in short supply for the Barton College men’s basketball team this season.
Entering Saturday’s NCAA Division II Conference Carolinas game with North Greenville, the Bulldogs, having lost three in a row and five of their last six, with their last two coming in overtime, thirsted over the prospect of a victory.
Thanks in large part to a bench that has seen its minutes increase by sheer necessity, Barton successfully fended off one of the nation’s most potent 3-point shooting programs as the Bulldogs won their first game of 2020 following a pair of losses with a 77-72 victory at Wilson Gym.
Junior forward Isaiah Reddish had 17 points and eight rebounds, while junior forward Blake Burdack finished one rebound shy of a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds.
Barton, which won’t play again until next Saturday at Southern Wesleyan, moved to 6-10 overall and 4-5 in Conference Carolinas play. North Greenville, despite a 34-point showing from D.J. Brooks on an 8-for-15 effort from 3-point range, fell to 6-7 in all games and 4-4 within the league.
“We’ve had so much adversity that we don’t even know who’s going to practice,” Barton head coach Ron Lievense said. “Blake didn’t practice this week, he just got cleared to play. Reddish hadn’t been practicing with us, he just got cleared to play. Buck’s (Isaiah Buck-Lowman) out for whoever knows how long. You’re talking about our best players. We don’t even know who’s going to play. It’s been that way all year long. It’s so frustrating to deal with this because we can’t get a flow going with a group of guys.”
The Bulldogs trailed 42-39 in the second half with 15:27 remaining before a 14-0 surge gave the lead for good. In that span, Barton utilized its rebounding edge to pull away. Junior Matt Elmore’s tip and hook shot inside helped fuel the run, with junior David Campbell grabbing an offensive rebound off a missed free throw. The result off the missed foul shot was a 3-pointer by freshman Jayson Robinson, boosting the Bulldogs to a 51-42 advantage.
Barton made 27 of 62 shots for 43.5% accuracy and wheeled inside to make 14-of-29 shots (48.3%) in the second half. The Bulldogs outrebounded the Crusaders by a 47-38 margin and limited North Greenville to a 38.5% display from the field over the final 20 minutes. NGU finished 28 of 69, good for a 40.6% clip.
Barton marched to the free-throw line for 24 attempts, compared to just 13 for NGU.
From the 3-point line, the Bulldogs silenced one threat while weathering another. Brooks, who was No. 18 nationally in 3-point percentage at 47.6%, tormented Barton for his 34 points on 12-of-27 shooting. But Barton didn’t hear anything from Jacob Redding, who made 51.4% of his long-range efforts to sit at No. 6 in Division II. But in 31 minutes off the bench, Redding was held without a field goal.
“Our whole goal was to run them off the 3,” Lievense said. “They hit 18 3s to beat Belmont Abbey, and our whole focus in practice was to take them off the 3. Now, (Brooks) is a heck of a basketball player. They’ve got great shooters, and (Redding), one of their best shooters on the whole team from 3, we did a tremendous job on him.”
Senior Michael Boykin added 15 points and six rebounds. However, Barton’s bench, being pushed into action and playing extended minutes, outscored the Crusaders 33-5. Ten Bulldogs played in excess of 10 minutes, and nine of 10 Barton players scored.
“It is next man up,” Lievense said. “It’s an opportunity for guys that don’t normally play, to play.”
North Greenville closed it to five at 71-66 with 1:37 to play on a Brooks jumper. Barton turned it over on a travel, and Brooks’ effort to get within a single possession rattled off into the hands of Burdack. NGU would get no closer than four in the final minute as Barton went to the foul line — and finally emerged with a victory.
“It was just a long journey,” Reddish said. “We had to grind it all this week, and we reaped the benefits.”
NORTH GREENVILLE (72)
Cokley 5, Brooks 34, Hewitt 5, Jamison 16, Conley 7, Muncy, Redding 1, Kirkpatrick 4.
Boykin 15, Reddish 17, Hudson, Gordon 5, Elmore 7, Robinson 8, Savage 4, Worley 6, Campbell 5, Burdack 10.
Halftime: Barton 34, North Greenville 31.