WILSON, NC — As the nation watched on television Saturday afternoon, the Barton College men's basketball team won a thriller, 84-81, over archrival Mount Olive to secure a home game Monday night in the quarterfinals of the Conference Carolinas Tournament.
Just like so many times before, the rivals staged an epic battle that featured 11 lead changes and nine ties. Barton freshman Greg Mammel made one free throw with five seconds left to give BC an 84-81 lead, but the Trojans corraled his missed second shot and pushed the ball upcourt, where Justin Melton's 3-pointer banged off the rim as the buzzer sounded.
Some of the 2,000-plus rushed the floor to celebrate as fans at home watched the action on CSTV and Fox Sports-South, which carried the game live as its "Game of the Week." The victory was huge for the Bulldogs, the defending NCAA D-II National Champions, since it earned them the fourth seed in the Conference Carolinas Tournament — and a home game with fifth-seeded Belmont Abbey on Monday night at 7:30. The second-seeded Barton women will host 7th-seeded Pfeiffer at 5:30 Monday in the "Dog House."
Barton, ranked 9th in the East Region, is 18-9 overall and finished 14-6 (fourth) in league play. The Trojans, ranked No. 14 nationally and second in the East Region, exited at 21-6 overall and 16-4 (first) in Conference Carolinas. Barton now has won eight of the last nine meetings with the Trojans and leads the overall series 18-14 in head coach Ron Lievense's 12 seasons at the helm. The Bulldogs are now 11-1 at home this season. This marked the first time an entire basketball game had been nationally televised from Wilson Gym.
Both teams had four players score in double figures. For Barton, junior guard Bobby Buffaloe and senior 6-6 center Brian Leggett notched 18 points apiece. Junior guard Errol Frails, playing in front of his hometown crowd, set the tone early for the Bulldogs and finished with 16 points before fouling out. Sophomore 6-3 forward L.J. recorded another double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
For Mount Olive, sensational 6-6 senior center Brandon Streeter tallied game-highs of 24 points (10-of-12 shooting) and 14 boards. Kendrick Easley cashed in 15 points, Josh Brown 13 and the high-flying Mike Holloman 10. Both teams shot 50 percent from the floor. Barton was 28-of-56 and MOC finished 30-of-60. Barton canned 25-of-34 foul shots for 73.5 percent while Mount Olive was 16-of-29 for 55.2 percent. Barton wound up with a 37-35 rebounding edge.
The Trojans controlled the tempo for much of the first half. They raced to 6-0 lead, but Barton battled back to take a 10-8 lead. The Trojans led 19-14 at 12:43, but Barton rallied to a 19-19 tie. The score was also tied at 29-all, but MOC ran the lead to its largest of the game at eight on two occasions before settling for a 43-39 halftime cushion.
Early in the second half, Leggett scored a couple of times down low, once on a dunk and Bobby Buffaloe scored six straight points, one on a 3-pointer and then, with a conventional 3-point play for a 54-54 deadlock at 13:49. The lead changed hands four times, with Barton taking the lead for good at 63-62 on a shot by Dunn at 10:24. Solid play and foul shooting down the stretch gave the Bulldogs a seven-point lead at 75-68 with 4:28 to play, but MOC battled back to a 79-79 tie at 1:46 behind Easley, Streeter and Brown.
Layups by Leggett and Mammel made it 83-79 and Shaughnnon Washum's putback pulled MOC within 83-81. Mammel's foul shot gave the Bulldogs a little cushion, then Melton got a good look at the buzzer, but couldn't convert.