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Without fail, Ron Lievense can point to the exact reasons why his Barton College men’s basketball team concluded the 45-Second Classic with an 80-72 loss to Augusta University inside Wilson Gym.
The offenses are not of the fire-and-brimstone variety at this point for his youthful Bulldogs, who lack any senior leadership in this 2017-18 edition.
“Everything we do this year is building for next year,” Lievense said. “Everything. We’re going to win games this year because we’ll get better. Our motto is getting better.”
Barton (0-2) battled the Jaguars, 24-game winners from a season ago, to a 32-31 deficit at the half and trailed 45-42 with 14:50 remaining. But off a Barton turnover, Tyvez Monroe knocked down a 3-point shot with 14:28 to go, allowing Augusta to hold no less than a two-possession lead the rest of the way en route to the victory.
Both teams shot the ball reasonably well, with Barton converting 29 of 55 shots for 52.7-percent accuracy. Augusta (2-0) was 29 for 60 for a 48.3-percent clip, including a 16-for-31 showing in the second half.
The Bulldogs turned it over 18 times, including nine in each half.
Barton was besieged by giveaways midway through the second half, allowing Augusta to build a double-digit lead. Tamyrik Fields’ layup gave the Jaguars a 56-46 lead with 9:20 remaining.
Junior Matt Woods, who finished with 14 points on 4-for-4 shooting from behind the 3-point line, gave the Bulldogs a chance to close on the margin late. With Barton trailing 62-52, a Woods trey and a layup from junior Bobby Stenborg made it 62-57 Augusta with 4:04 to go. However, Deane Williams, who led the Jaguars with 21 points, got free for a layup on the next possession. A pair of Stenborg free throws closed the Bulldogs to within 64-59, only to see Williams hit a key 3-pointer with just under three minutes remaining.
Barton’s Michael Boykin, the 2016-17 Conference Carolinas Freshman of the Year, misfired on a trey that would have cut it to four with 1:55 to go. That forced the Bulldogs into fouling, where Augusta’s Mikkel Kolstad hit 11 of 12 free throws over the final 87 seconds to close it out. Kolstad, who finished with 20 points, allowed Augusta to make eight more free throws than Barton, the margin of victory.
Sophomore Jeff Gordon led the Bulldogs with 16 points as one of four Barton players in double figures. Woods had 14, with Boykin adding 11. Boykin missed on all five attempts from beyond the arc and led all players with six assists. Stenborg had 10 points.
Augusta after failing to get the ball inside with regularity in the first half, entered the post more in the second half and outscored Barton 15-2 on second-chance opportunities.
“I thought our guys, we kind of stuck together,” Augusta head coach Dip Metress said. “We had some adversity, and we stuck together. And that’s a good sign. Because in our two exhibitions, we weren’t pointing fingers, but we weren’t taking the blame for anything. So I think our guys took the blame for things when we did some things wrong, and that enabled them to stick together and come out with a great win.
Woods wasn’t prepared to offer youth as an excuse, but assured the season was early. Lievense recounted that Barton lost both Classic games last season, only to bounce back with a 20-10 record.
“We’ve got to keep our head up,” Woods said. “This is the second game of the year, so one game doesn’t define a season. We’re going to get back on Monday, practice and be ready.”
In Saturday’s other game of the Classic, Mount Olive edged Young Harris, 87-84.