TAMPA -- Barry men's basketball plays at Tampa in a pivotal conference game 4 p.m. Saturday.
The Buccaneers (11-12, 4-9 Sunshine State Conference) are coming off a 67-58 homecoming win Wednesday in front of a charged-up crowd of 1,012 fans at home. The Spartans (16-10, 3-10) have lost their last four.
But with little margin for error and three conference games remaining, the Buccaneers know every game becomes bigger from here on out. The Bucs, who beat the Spartans, 75-66, in the first game this season on Jan. 26 in South Florida, are one game ahead of Tampa in the league standings. Currently, Barry occupies seventh place in the SSC. The eighth and ninth place teams will have to play each other in the first round of the conference tournament Mar. 6.
“It’s a very big game because our conference is so tough that whenever you get a chance to create some separation from another opponent, it’s a big opportunity," Bucs assistant coach Mike Bradley said. "I think our guys will be up for this.”
In the first game against the Spartans, Barry had a 15-point lead midway through the second half. But Tampa's Da'Marcko Foster went off in the second half, scoring 34 points in the game. He had 28 in the second half, and knocked down six of 15 triples.
The 34 points Foster scored tied the most any opponent had against Barry in 13 years. Central Oklahoma's Marlon Dawson ripped off 50 points on 12 of 17 shooting, including 9 of 19 from behind the three-point line, in a double-overtime game the Buccaneers won, 105-103, on Dec. 1, 2000 in Boca Raton, Fla. Dawson's 50 points is believed to be a school-record for any player against Barry.
“We’re going try to do a better job of containing (Foster) and controlling gaps," Bradley said. "If we’re gonna lose, they’re gonna beat us with jumpers. Last game we fouled him too much. This game we’re going to play cleaner defense, keep him off the line and force him into contested jumpers."
Foster scored 15 points in the final 1:59, converting two four-point plays, the first time the two teams met.
“Defensively, we tend to let up in the second half, but this game we’re going to play a full game," Bradley said. "When we played Tampa the first time, we were still buying into the philosophies coach (Orlando) Gonzalez was trying to teach. Before it was more individual. Now, this part of the season, we’re playing better help defense. As of lately, our defense has gotten a lot better and a lot more cohesive, and we’ve tightened up on the defensive end of the floor."
Bucs sophomore forward Damien Dwaine scored a career-high 15 points and pulled down eight rebounds against Tampa in the first game. Chad Renfro and Filip Toric each had 13.
LAST TIME OUT: Barry beat Palm Beach Atlantic Wednesday in its homecoming game, 67-58 ... Aaron Martin had 16 pts ... Chad Renfro had 10 pts and 7 reb.
SERIES RECORD: Barry is 19-39 all-time against Tampa ... The Bucs beat the Spartans by nine in the early meeting this year in Miami Shores ... Barry split with Tampa last year, each team winning at home.
EYES ON OPPONENT: The Spartans have lost four in a row ... Tampa is 7-4 at home this year ... Da’ Marcko Foster is averaging 16.5 ppg and 4.4 reb ... Anthony Griffis is averaging 15.5 ppg and 4.7 reb ... Vincent Cornu is pulling down 6.6 reb.
FOSTER ON FIRE: Tampa’s Da’ Marcko Foster scored a season-high 34 points against Barry in the first meeting ... His 34 points were tied for the most scored against a Bucs team since Marlon Dawson of Central Oklahoma dropped 50 on Barry Dec. 1, 2000 ... Foster scored 28 against the Bucs in the second half ... Foster had 15 in the last 1:59 against Barry.
DOWN WITH DEFENSE: The 58 points Barry yielded to Palm Beach Atlantic earlier this week is the second lowest the Bucs have held an opponent this year ... Twice Barry held an opponent to 53 points.
MAGNE-FIVED: Soph. F Magne Fivelstad has scored in double figures in four straight games ... Fivelstad is now the second leading scorer on the team at 10.6 ppg.
A-MART ENDS DOUBLE DROUGHT: Sr. F Aaron Martin ended a five-game drought in which he did not score in double figures when he busted out for 16 points Wednesday ... Martin has scored in double figures in 11 games this year ... He is third on the team in scoring (10.1).
TRIPLE TIED: Sr. G Bryan Van Cott and Sr. G Chad Renfro are tied for 17th among Barry’s career three-point leaders, each having hit 75 triples in their careers.
VLAD CHASING HISTORY: Sr. G Vladimir Raymonvil ranks second all-time in school history in free throw percentage (.820) in his four years with the Bucs ... Brent Williams (1991-93) owns the top spot at .824 ... Raymonvil is 100-for-122 all-time at the stripe ... He has not attempted a free throw in his last four games.
SSC TICKETS: Buy your tickets for the Sunshine State Conference tournament in Kissimmee, Fla., Mar. 6-10 at Silver Spurs Arena ... Contact associate athletics director Jamie Carrig at 305-899-4823 or firstname.lastname@example.org to purchase tickets ... All SSC teams qualify for the tournament.