by Benny Benton
DUE WEST, S.C. – Barton College used a 9-0 run over a three-minute stretch late in Wednesday night's contest at Erskine College to gain control of the Conference Carolinas matchup and hold off a pesky Flying Fleet lineup, 76-72, at Belk Arena.
Erskine (9-15, 4-11) led for much of the game's first 30 minutes, and held a one-point advantage at 56-55 with 6:53 to play following a jumper by Trent Smoot.
However, Barton (15-11, 11-5) used a jumper by Michael Boykin, layups by Bobby Stenborg and Jeff Gordon, and a 3-pointer by Matt Woods to comprise the spurt that gave the Bulldogs some breathing room at 64-56 with 4:34 to go.
The Flying Fleet cut the deficit to four on a Jordan Watson 3-pointer and Austin Venable free throw, but Woods responded with another 3-pointer and Isaiah Buck-Lowman added a jumper to push the BC lead to nine at 69-60 with 2:16 remaining.
Barton's advantage reached 10 points with 20 seconds to play before a pair of 3-pointers by Erskine trimmed the final margin to four.
Buck-Lowman scored a team-high 21 points, and also contributed five rebounds and five steals in leading the Bulldogs to their fourth straight victory. Stenborg chipped in 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the floor, and freshman Isaiah Reddish tossed in 12 points and a season-high eight rebounds.
Watson led all scorers with 25 points for the Flying Fleet. Zezmon Steeple collected 14 points for Erskine in the loss and Smoot posted 10.
Erskine, the league-leader in scoring defense, held Barton to single-digits over the game's first 11 minutes. However, that work only netted the Fleet a six-point lead at 15-9. The Bulldogs quickly erased that margin, using a layup by Reddish, a 3-pointer by Zach Grant and a layup by Blake Burdack to regain the lead for the first time since the score was 3-2.
The Flying Fleet stretched its advantage back to five points on two occasions in the latter stages of the half, but consecutive layups by Stenborg and a layup by Buck-Lowman put BC back in front, 30-29, with 1:09 left before the break. EC moved back in front on two Watson free throws, but Buck-Lowman answered with a jumper to send Barton to intermission with a 32-31 advantage.
Barton opened the second half with baskets by Buck-Lowman and Woods to take its first five-point lead of the night, but Erskine gradually chipped away at that advantage, regaining the lead at 41-40 on a 3-pointer by Watson and moving back up by four on a fast-break layup by Steeple with 14:06 to go.
The two sides then traded the lead for several minutes before Barton's late run.
Barton shot better than 52 percent from the field (30 of 57), but gave up nearly 60 percent (28 of 47) to the Flying Fleet, including 53 percent from long range (8 of 15). Erskine also won the rebounding battle, 27 to 24. However, turnovers were key for BC, as the Bulldogs forced 18 while committing just nine.
A loss by University of Mount Olive on Wednesday leaves Barton as one of four teams within one game of each other at the top of the conference standings.
Barton will play at Limestone College on Saturday before visiting the rival Trojans in the final game of the regular-season on Friday, Feb. 23.