AUGUSTA, GA – With a big sheriff patrolling the paint for Augusta State, the
Barton College Bulldogs fired blanks all too often Sunday night and saw their
season end with a 77-61 loss to the nationally fourth-ranked Jaguars in the NCAA
D-II Men’s Basketball Southeast Regional semifinals in Christenberry Fieldhouse.
The ice-cold Bulldogs, seeded fifth, had no answer for 7-foot, 300-pound ASU
center Garret Siler, mainly because they couldn’t buy a basket. Barton hit just
22-of-67 shots for 32.8 percent, including 4-of-19 (21.1 percent) from 3-point
range, and again struggled from the foul line, where it converted 13-of-23 for
56.5 percent. Since going inside was no option against Siler, without any
firepower from outside, the Bulldogs fell behind early and never caught up
against the 2008 NCAA D-II runner-up.
Siler, who dunked the ball the first two times he touched it, finished with 19
points on 7-of-8 shooting, seven rebounds, three blocks and three assists for
the Jaguars, who are 28-4 and riding a 14-game winning streak.
Barton, which had won seven straight, exited the tournament at 25-6. The senior
trio of Errol Frails (Wilson, NC), David King (Raleigh, NC) and Bobby Buffaloe
(Fuquay-Varina, NC) completed their remarkable careers as the winningest class in
the history of Barton basketball. They were 103-26 overall (.798) and posted a
57-3 record at home. Along the way, they won three conference regular season and
tournament titles and two East Regional titles, made three NCAA appearances,
advanced to two Elite Eights and won the 2007 National Championship in dramatic
“These three seniors have left a tremendous legacy for you,” 13-year head
coach Ron Lievense told his team in the locker room after the game. “Now, the
mantle is passed on to you juniors.”
Later, in the media room, Lievense said: “Hats off to a tremendous Augusta State
team. They have great size, strength and shooting. I just don’t see a chink in
their armor. Look at those percentages we had tonight. We didn’t hit free
throws, didn’t shoot 3s and didn’t make our layups. We weren’t able to tough it
out (through the cold shooting). We didn’t play to our potential two nights in a
row, but a lot of credit goes to the two teams we played.
“We have already thanked our seniors in private, but I want to thank them here
for everything they have brought to Barton College. They are tremendous students
and human beings. To win 103 games in four years says a lot about these
gentlemen. As a coach, I am having a hard time saying goodbye right now.”
The Jaguars, who shot 51 percent overall Sunday night, were also hot from
outside, draining 7-of-16 threes for 43.8 percent. Unlike the Bulldogs, they
also made their foul shots, canning 20-of-25 for 80 percent.
“I watched the Animal Planet today,” ASU head coach Dip Metress said, “and it
said the bigger the alligator, the more the problems. So I thought that was
apropos going into tonight. The big alligator over here (looking at Siler)
dominated early on and freed up everything for everybody else.”
Barton, which trailed by 17 at halftime, found itself behind 51-26 early in the
second half when Southeast Region Player of the Year Ben Madgen, a 6-4 guard,
hit a jumper and two 3-pointers in an 8-0 run just after intermission.
However, the BulIdogs didn’t quit battling. Their deficit was still 25 points at
33-58 with 13:23 to play when Barton went on its biggest run of the game,
hitting six of seven shots in an 18-5 spurt to close within striking distance at
63-49 with nine minutes left. Junior forward Eddie Kershaw scored three times,
junior 6-3 forward L.J. Dunn added six points and Frails swished a 3-pointer to
get the Barton fans riled up. Two free throws from sophomore guard Jaren Haley
finished off the run.
That’s when the biggest shot was delivered by ASU. The ‘Dogs dug in defensively
on the ensuing possession, and with one tick left on the shot clock, senior ASU
guard Steve Smith tossed in a contested 3-pointer to move the lead back to 15 at
7:31. Barton proceeded to misfire on 11 of its next 12 shots, but the Jaguars
struggled as well. A three-point play by Haley at 3:44 made it 68-56, but ASU
hit 5-of-7 foul shots and got a fifth and final dunk from Siler to seal their
date with USC Aiken in the regional final. Aiken, the No. 2 seed, beat No. 6
Catawba 85-72 in Sunday’s first semifinal.
In the first half, Siler proved to be an imposing presence in the paint early
on, but Barton hung tough and pulled even at 4-4. The Jaguars then seized
control with a 16-3 run. Fred Brathwaite hit a 3-pointer and slammed home two
dunks in the run while Siler had his way inside for two more hoops. Meanwhile,
Barton connected on just 1-of-9 shots in that span.
Down 20-7, Buffaloe swished a 3-pointer and a jumper around two buckets by Dunn
as the Bulldogs pulled within 25-16 at the seven-minute mark. After the teams
exchanged a few buckets, the Jaguars went on a 9-2 run to end the half with a
commanding 43-26 lead.
At the break, just like the night before, the Bulldogs had hit just 10-of-29
shots for 34.5 percent while ASU was 15-of-25 for 60 percent. Barton was also
just 1-of-9 from 3-point land, identical to their quarterfinal halftime stats.
ASU dominated the backboards 21-10 before the break, but committed 10 turnovers.
Brathwaite and Siler each had 13 points at half while Dunn, who sat six minutes
of the half with two fouls, paced the Bulldogs’ attack with 10 points on 5-of-6
shooting, six rebounds and three steals.
For the game, Madgen netted 18 points, Brathwaite had 13 and Daniel Dixon
drilled 10. Barton battled hard on the boards in the second half and wound up
with a 39-38 edge in rebounding.
The Bulldogs were led again by Dunn, who was a first-team All-Conference
Carolinas choice and second-team NABC All-Southeast Region pick. He had 16
points, 10 rebounds and five steals in his season finale, concluding the year
with 17 double-doubles in 31 games. Kershaw added 11 points and eight rebounds
and Aaron Suggs scored 10.
Hugs and tears abounded in the Barton locker room after the loss, especially
among the seniors.
“We just didn’t take advantage of our opportunities,” Frails told the media,
“but this team has grown a lot. We cut into their lead, and then they would hit
a big shot, but we never stopped fighting. It hurts.”
“It’s tough (to think about it) right now,” Buffaloe said, “but it was a good
career. It’s going to be tough to leave.”
“Right now,” King said, “it’s tough because of what happened tonight. But when
we take the time to look back, we can be thankful for what we have learned and
how we have grown. I think it’ll be a great team here next year. All these guys
are like brothers to me. I am extremely thankful for being part of this family.”