02/27/09 — Barton men clinch share of title

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Barton men clinch share of title

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on February 27, 2009 1:46 PM

WILSON --The road to the Conference Carolinas tournament title now runs through "The Dog House."

Barton College dominated the paint and played solid perimeter defense in its 81-67 victory over Mount Olive on Tuesday evening. The bitter archrivals will share the Conference Carolinas regular-season men's basketball championship, but Barton gets the No. 1 seed and homecourt advantage for the tournament.

A near-capacity crowd watched as the Dawgs jumped out to an early lead behind strong interior play by L.J. Dunn. The junior power forward broke a 4-4 tie with an offensive putback during the game's opening moments.

Barton held the lead the rest of the way.

"They brought the physical play and the toughness inside and we couldn't match them," said Mount Olive head coach Joey Higginbotham. "It is almost impossible to beat them when they win the rebounding battle."

The Bulldogs built a 30-18 lead with six minutes to play in the first half. Not ready to go quietly, the Trojans battled back with some timely outside shots. Justin Melton and Kendrick Easley each delivered from beyond the arc and Mount Olive pulled within 36-33 at intermission.

"I have a ton of respect for Mount Olive and the team they have," said Barton head coach Ron Lievense. "They have a tremendous backcourt and we knew it would take a complete game effort to get a win."

Dunn continued to assert himself in the second half. Two quick baskets on the interior helped extend the Dawgs' lead to eight with 16 minutes to play.

After an Easley jumper, Mount Olive missed an opportunity to stay within striking distance thanks in part to a missed layup and poor transition defense. Barton went on a 9-0 run and seized its largest lead of the game at 55-40.

Melton attempted to rally the MOC offense with three 3-pointers over a two-minute span. The Dawgs answered with a short, 6-0 outburst of their own.

"That was the difference in the game tonight from our perspective," said Higginbotham. "They answered every time we closed the gap. And when they went on a run, we didn't respond."

The teams traded baskets down the stretch, but the Trojans never threatened.

Dunn finished with a double-double -- 22 points and 17 rebounds. David King added eight points and 14 boards. Aaron Suggs chipped in 12 points and Bobby Buffaloe finished with 11 points. The Dawgs (21-6 overall, 17-3 CC) owned a 51-37 edge on the boards.

Melton and Craig Hayes scored 16 points apiece for the Trojans. Mike Holloman added 12 points and seven rebounds. Easley and Derek Staton each finished with 11 points in the loss.

"We have to regroup and get back to what has made us successful," said Higginbotham. "We get a home game in the conference tournament on Monday and we have to be ready."

Mount Olive (18-9, 17-3 CC) entertains either Erskine or St. Andrews at 7 p.m. Monday.