BOCA RATON, Fla. – If there was a reason to feel even better about this basketball team the Miami Shores school has this year, Saturday certainly was one of them.
The Buccaneers knocked off No. 13 Livingstone, 84-79, Saturday to win the Lynn Courtyard by Marriott Holiday Classic, setting the stages for a big tilt with No. 4 Florida Southern on Jan. 4. Barry bumped its record to 9-0, and handed the Blue Bears their second loss in nine games. Livingstone lost to defending NCAA Division II national champion and third-ranked Drury by a point earlier in the week.
“We weren’t expecting this, so it’s a really good feeling,” Yunio Barrueta said after recording his third double-double of the season. “It’s one of the best feelings in the world, besides winning a championship.”
The Bucs led by 17 with 8:31 to play, following one of Juan Ferrales’ six 3-pointers on a night the junior transfer from FIU went for 30 in a game this season. He scored a career-best 34 against Belmont Abbey in Miami Shores.
Livingstone all but erased the deficit after Mark Thomas and Eric Dubose combined to hit five second half triples, spearing the Blue Bears’ comeback bid. Ferrales scored on a lay-in with 3:36 to go, keeping the Bucs ahead, 76-63. Livingstone, which hit 28.6 percent of its 3-pointers, drew within seven on Thomas’ layup at the 2:18 mark.
Thomas hit two triples in between a pair of Ferrales free throws, the latter coming with 1:13 left on the clock as the Blue Bears drew within five.
“We got pretty nervous when (Thomas) was hitting those threes back to back,” Barrueta said, “but we held our composure, and we executed at the end.”
With 12 seconds left, Thomas buried another triple to get it within two, but a Livingstone technical foul and a free throw by Magne Fivelstad cushioned the lead to three, and Ferrales sank one of two on two other occasions inside the final nine seconds to seal it.
“We were just hoping that they would stop hitting deep contested threes, and we’d stop committing turnovers,” Bucs assistant coach Ryan Saunders said. “More so, we hoped the time would just run out, whichever came first. Our execution against their press wasn’t great, but fortunately we made enough plays and free throws to not surrender the lead.”
The Buccaneers had 21 assists and 20 turnovers. Livingstone committed 12 turnovers. The Blue Bears outscored Barry, 36-24, in the paint and, 32-16, in bench production. Barry was losing the rebound battle by four at halftime, but outrebounded Livingstone, 28-17, in the second half.
“Magne, Savad (Garner) and myself, we told ourselves, we really need to focus on winning the boards,” Barrueta said.
The three of them combined to corral 30 of the Bucs’ 44 rebounds. Garner had a season-best 13, while Barrueta grabbed 11 to go along with 14 points and four assists. Fivelstad had 14 points and six boards.
The win over Livingstone was the first over a ranked opponent for the Bucs since they beat No. 12 Florida Southern twice in a week’s span from March 6-13 in the 2010 postseason play. The last time a Barry team was ranked was March 6, 2007, when the Bucs shared the No. 25 spot in the final Division II poll that season.
That begs the question, do the Bucs believe they’re good enough to be ranked now?
“No, it doesn’t really feel that way,” Barrueta said. “Just because we may be ranked, it doesn’t really mean anything. We still have a long way to go. We’re still outside the picture.”
“I think we’re playing really good basketball, but I think we could play even better,” Saunders said. “I don’t know if we’re a Top 25 team yet, but it would be neat. But at this point, a ranking really doesn’t mean anything.”
Barry, which connected on 55.6 percent of its triple tries, going 10 of 18 from beyond the arc, struggled from the free throw line. The Bucs shot 60.5 percent, hitting 26 of 43. Livingstone was 13 of 18 from the stripe.
The Bucs' win over the Blue Bears capped a three-win week over quality region opponents.
“I feel like it was a good start,” Barrueta said. “This will just help us focus on the second part of the season. Obviously in this break we have to stay in shape. We’ll have a week to prepare for (the next game) and get mentally ready.”
The Bucs meet the unbeaten Moccasins at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 4 in Lakeland. Florida Southern (11-0) hosts Tuskegee at 4 p.m. Sunday.
“It’s always great to start your first semester undefeated,” Saunders said. “We all know what’s ahead in the second semester, and that’s our brutal conference schedule. Up to this point, our schedule has been getting tougher and tougher with each game. That’s certainly the case next when we go play Florida Southern. They’re obviously ranked for a reason.
“They’re an explosive team, who seems to play better on their home floor. Everything goes their way on their home floor. With our schedule getting tougher every game, our guys have stepped up to the challenge. I expect our guys to be ready, be up, be prepared. We have a whole week of practice leading up to it, so I know our guys will be focused. But it’s exciting to be 9-0, going into the Christmas break.”