AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The top-seeded Augusta State Jaguars got off to a fast start and never looked back as they advanced to the NCAA Southeast Regional Championship game for the second consecutive year with a 77-61 win over fifth-seeded Barton Sunday night. With that win, Augusta State will face USC Aiken on Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. for a trip to the Elite Eight. It will be the second straight year that the Regional Championship game is made entirely of Peach Belt Conference teams.
With the win, ASU extended its winning streak to 14 in a row and improved to 28-4 on the season, setting a new school record for wins in a season. Barton, champions of Conference Carolinas, saw their season come to a close with a 25-7 record.
ASU hit six of their first seven shots in the game to open up an early 13-4 lead. That lead grew to double digits following a Fred Brathwaite three-pointer that made it 16-6. Barton struggled from the field in the first 10 minutes, hitting three of their first 13 shots.
The ASU lead ballooned to 20-7 following a Garret Siler layup before Barton responded with an 11-5 stretch, five of those points coming from Bobby Buffaloe, that cut the lead to nine. The lead was 10 with 3:07 to play in the half when ASU opened up a 7-2 run with a Ben Madgen jumper and a three-pointer from Daniel Dixon. Two Brathwaite free throws capped the run and gave ASU a 43-26 halftime lead.
Barton’s scoring struggles continued into the second half as the Bulldogs were held to three points for the first 5:21. ASU took advantage, building their lead to as many as 25 on a three-pointer from Ben Madgen and another from Dixon.
A Siler dunk with 11:46 to play left the lead at 20, but the Jaguars went cold from the field, scoring three points over the next three minutes while Barton went on an 11-3 run, four of those coming on back-to-back jumpers from L.J. Dunn, to cut the lead to 12 with 8:11 to go.
The lead remained at 12 with 3:44 remaining after a three-point play from Barton’s Jaren Haley, but the Jaguars put the game away with a 6-2 spurt with another dunk from Siler and free throws from Madgen and Dixon.
Siler led all players with 19 points, hitting seven of eight from the field. The senior also had seven rebounds, three assists and three blocks. Madgen added 18 and five boards while Brathwaite scored 13 with a team-best eight rebounds. The Jaguars shot 60% from the field in the first half and 51% for the game.
Dunn led the Bulldogs with 16 points and 10 rebounds. The junior hit seven of 12 from the floor while six of his 10 boards were on the offensive glass. Aaron Suggs added 10 for Barton while Eddie Kershaw scored 11. The Bulldogs outrebounded ASU by one and forced 18 Jaguar turnovers to only 11 of their own.
Augusta State and USC Aiken have met three times this season in PBC play. The two split their regular-season meetings, each winning on their home floor, while ASU won the PBC Tournament Championship over USCA 65-64 on March 8.