by Benny Benton
GAFFNEY, S.C. – Hopes for a Conference Carolinas regular-season title ended for the Barton College men's basketball team Saturday night when the Bulldogs lost a 96-79 road game at Limestone College.
Barton (15-12, 11-6) began the day within one game of three other teams at the top of the league standings, but now sits beyond reach of those programs after stumbling against the Saints (11-15, 7-10).
The Bulldogs led just 1:28 of the 40 minutes played, the last time at 20-18 with 7:13 left in the first half. Barton remained close to the Saints through the first 10 minutes of the second period, and trailed by just three at 59-56 following a 3-pointer by Isaiah Buck-Lowman with 11:19 to play.
However, Limestone shot 68 percent in the second half, and Barton eventually found itself unable to keep up. Leading by six at 66-60 with nine minutes to go, the Saints went on a 9-0 run to push the margin well into double-digits.
Spurred by six straight points from junior Matt Woods, Barton fought back from an 18-point deficit to within eight with just over four minutes remaining. However, Limestone hit two 3-pointers and a jumper to quickly end any thoughts of a complete comeback by the Bulldogs.
Woods scored a career-high 20 points and pulled down five rebounds in a losing cause for the Bulldogs. Junior Zach Grant added 16 points and Michael Boykin chipped in 15. Barton's top two scorers entering the game, Bobby Stenborg and Buck-Lowman, were held to a combined 12 points.
Although it was Senior Night for Limestone, redshirt freshman Jaquan Simms did the most celebrating, pouring in 27 points on 10-of-14 shooting from the field, including 5-of-8 from 3-point range. The Saints did receive 19 points and seven rebounds from one senior, Walter Cole, and 11 points from another, Macoumba Kane.
Barton was unable to force turnovers against Limestone, as the Saints handed it over just eight times. Limestone also out-rebounded the Bulldogs, 32 to 26. BC shot 82 percent from the free throw line (23 of 28), but the Saints were nearly as accurate, making 81 percent (13 of 16).
The Bulldogs have one more regular-season game, and they won't need league title motivation for that one, as Barton visits arch-rival University of Mount Olive next Friday for a 7:30 p.m. showdown. BC can knock the Trojans out of title contention and improve its own tournament seeding with a victory.