ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Well, this one didn’t go to overtime, but the Buccaneers would’ve taken their chances with that scenario.
Instead, Barry watched a high-octane first half turn into second half struggles when Eckerd turned it up a notch to send the Bucs back to Miami Shores with a 75-63 loss Saturday.
The Buccaneers (7-7, 1-4 Sunshine State Conference) built a 10-point first half lead, and maintained that for the better part of the first half until Eckerd scored on a layup by Darrien Mack to beat the buzzer and send the Tritons into the break with a little momentum.
Filip Toric’s free throw at the 5:06 mark pushed the Buccaneers to a 31-21 lead. Justin McCoy’s bucket inside the last minute of the first half kept Barry in front by eight before Mack’s field goal beat the buzzer to help the Tritons (9-4, 3-3) trim the gap to six.
Barry held Eckerd to 0-for-11 three-point shooting in the first half.
But the Tritons turned the tables in the second half, erasing the six-point gap by going on a 31-10 run over the first 11:57 to seize a 60-45 lead. Junior McLeod’s dunk at 8:55 mark gave the Tritons a 10-point lead. Jerrick Stevenson capped off the second-half turnaround with a three to extend Eckerd’s lead to the game’s biggest at 15.
“They refocused their gameplan and pounded the ball inside, which is traditionally what they do,” Bucs assistant coach Ryan Saunders said. “They went to the line 23 times, which means they pounded the ball inside. I think they settled a little bit too much in the first half, and our defense softened up. Our energy and our toughness in the first half was not there in the second half."
Barry cut it to seven on a pair of Chad Renfro free throws, but that’s as close as the Bucs got.
Eckerd entered the game making more free throws than their opponents have attempted all season. That trend held up again Saturday as the Tritons hit 27 of 33 free throws. The Bucs attempted 26, making 19.
Barry was 2 for 10 from long range in the second half after hitting 42.9 percent of their triple tries in the first half. Eckerd finished the game shooting 2 of 17 from beyond the three-point arc.
“They did a better job defensively limiting our open looks,” Saunders said. “We told ’em at halftime, ‘It’s a 40-minute game,’ and that we needed to carry the same energy and intensity over the second half. It seems like we haven’t been able to do that all year. That was a game that got away from us.
“When we play good, solid Barry basketball we can compete with anybody and be in any game. I just don’t think we come out with the same intensity in the second half. We lose track of what got us the lead in the first half."
Mack finished with 24 points and seven rebounds. Malcolm Brunner Jr. had 17 points and 12 rebounds. He was 9 of 13 from the free throw line. Woody Taylor had eight assists and five rebounds.
Renfro had 14 points and four rebounds. McCoy had 14 points. Aaron Martin scored 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Toric had seven boards, six points, five assists and two blocks. Magne Fivelstad had seven points and four boards.
Barry, which will host Rollins at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Health & Sports Center, had just 10 assists with only one player over two.
“Our field goal percentage dropped drastically in the second half,” Saunders said. “I don’t think we were as crisp moving the basketball. We weren’t making that extra pass.”