by Benny Benton
BELMONT, N.C. – Four players reached double-figure scoring in a balanced attack for Barton College Wednesday night, but Belmont Abbey College ended a seven-game home losing streak to the Lady Bulldogs with an 81-64 Conference Carolinas victory at the Wheeler Center.
Three players reached double figures for Belmont Abbey (2-1, 1-0), with two of them recording a double-double. Morgan Midkiff led the way with 20 points and 10 rebounds, while Tajanna Brown contributed 18 points and 11 boards. McKenzie Owen, the reigning conference player of the week, tossed in 14 points for BAC, which was picked second in the league's preseason coaches' poll.
Barton led for a total of just 30 seconds very early in the contest. The Lady Bulldogs stayed close through the first half of the opening period, and trailed by a single point at 11-10 following a free throw by Shannon with 12:21 left before intermission.
However, Barton missed its next six shots from the field and turned the ball over four times in a span of four minutes, allowing the Crusaders to go on a 14-1 run and take a 25-11 advantage with 7:36 left before the break.
Still trailing by double-digits at 29-18 with five minutes left in the half, the Lady Bulldogs took advantage of two missed 3-pointers and a turnover by Belmont Abbey to climb back into the contest. A jumper by Lea, three straight free throws by Webster and a layup by Lea made up a 7-0 spurt that took just one minute and pulled Barton to within four at 29-25.
But a layup by BAC's Gabrielle Bethel stopped the run, and two missed free throws by Barton was followed by a 3-pointer from Midkiff and a steal and layup by Brown that put the Crusaders quickly back up by 11.
The teams went to halftime with Belmont Abbey leading by 14, and the Lady Bulldogs never cut the deficit below double-digits in the second period. Trailing by 18, Barton climbed to within 10 on two occasions, but the Crusaders eventually grew their lead to as many as 26 points with 3:41 left.
Belmont Abbey shot 46 percent from the field in the game while holding Barton to 30 percent. The Crusaders dominated play inside, scoring twice as many points in the paint, 44 to 22. BAC also did an excellent job of passing the basketball, as the Crusaders collected 24 assists. Briana Grier posted a game-high six assists, followed by Midkiff with five.
Barton played much of the game without one of its two leading scorers. Freshman Alexis Johnson, who averaged 15 points per game in the season's first two contests, was saddled with foul trouble for most of the night and scored just two points, although she did still share the team lead in rebounds with six in just 13 minutes played.
The Lady Bulldogs will try and get back to .500 for the season when they visit USC Aiken on Saturday.