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March 1, 2014

Regionally ranked Bulldogs advance past Belmont Abbey

by Kevin Buczek

WILSON, N.C.-Second-seeded Barton College shot 51-percent from the field and used a big second half in eliminating seventh-seeded Belmont Abbey College, 76-64, in the quarterfinals of the 2014 Conference Carolinas Men's Basketball Tournament Powered by OrthoCarolina on Saturday night in the Dog House.

Barton – ranked No. 10 in the Southeast Region – will play third-seeded King University in the semifinals at the Cabarrus Arena & Events Center in Concord, N.C., on Wednesday, March 5 at 8 p.m. The Tornado defeated sixth-seeded North Greenville University, 96-73, on Saturday. The other semifinal will have top-seeded University of Mount Olive playing fourth-seeded Limestone College on Wednesday at 3 p.m. The championship game is slated to tip off at 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 6 in the Cabarrus Arena & Events Center.

Senior Brian McNair led four Bulldogs into double figures with 15 points on 5 of 9 shooting. McNair was the catalyst for the Royal Blue and White by adding five assists and four steals to complement his scoring production. Junior Khari Faison scored eight of his 11 points in the first half to give Barton a two-point edge at halftime before the Bulldogs pulled away after the intermission.

Senior Zach Faircloth netted 10 of his 12 points in the second half while sophomore Chris Flemmings, the Bulldogs leading scorer at over 20 points per game who has been battling illness, provided a gutsy 10 points in the final period. Flemmings did not even attempt a shot in the first half but found a way to notch another strong performance that included six rebounds and four assists despite being under the weather.

The Bulldogs shot 57.1% in the first half and held the Crusaders to just 34.4% but found themselves in a fight because 13 turnovers over the first 20 minutes led to 17 extra points for the Abbey. Barton trailed by six, 28-22, after Justin Kuhlman made a 3-pointer at the 3:37 mark but finished the half on a 10-2 run to pull in front. McNair made a pair of baskets around a hoop by junior Ryan Canoy to tie the score at 28-all. Belmont Abbey regained the lead one last time on a pair of Ryan Conrad free throws but a tip-in by Faison knotted the score again moments later. Sophomore DJ Carnegie then followed another Barton miss with a put-back off the glass in the final minute to lift BC to the 32-30 halftime advantage.

A Kuhlman layup on the opening possession of the second half evened the score for an eighth and final time before Barton scored the next eight points to pull ahead for good. Flemmings was fouled attempting his first shot of the game at the 19:04 mark and he made 1 of 2 free throws to start the run. A McNair jumper and two free throws by junior Daniel McClendon followed before Flemmings drained a baseline 3-pointer on an assist by McNair to complete the surge.

Belmont Abbey pulled to within two possessions a couple times including as late as 51-45 with 11:38 to go but consecutive 3-pointers by freshman Kendall Patterson and Faircloth a few minutes later increased the host's advantage to double digits for nearly the final eight minutes.

Patterson finished with eight points and Canoy canned six. Barton did not make a three-pointer (0 for 7) and never earned a trip to the free throw line in the first half. However, the Bulldogs swished 4 of 8 treys and converted on a solid 20 of 28 (71.4%) free throw attempts in the second half.

Ray Chen led all players with 20 points and had team-best totals of four assists and four steals for the Crusaders. Darryl Durham posted a double-double of 14 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. Kuhlman and Conrad added 15 and 10 points, respectively. The quartet accounted for all but five of the Abbey's 64 points.

The Bulldogs finished with a 37-32 advantage on the backboards. Junior Evan Shelton paced BC on the glass with seven rebounds. Faison also grabbed five boards.

Barton improved to 17-10 overall and will finish with a 9-3 ledger at home. Belmont Abbey, the defending tourney champs, ended its season at 11-16.