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Cougar men split games at Thanksgiving Classic
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It was eerily similar to the first home classic. The Barton men were in control for an opening night win only to watch it slip away. Then respond the next night with a good outing and a split.
This time Barton lost a double-digit lead Friday to Northwest Kansas Tech in a 77-75 loss then return for an easy 86-72 win over Brown Mackie.
With the split Barton is 8-3 to close out the non-conference slate. Northwest Tech lost Saturday to Clarendon College (Texas) and it now 8-5. Brown Mackie, also a loser to Clarendon, is 8-5.
“We seemed to have a lack of intensity Friday,” Coach Craig Fletchall said. “We did better with that on Saturday.”
Barton was in control Friday most of the way. Barton led by double figures in the opening half and led 45-36 at intermission.
Northwest Tech immediately changed that in the second half. The Mavericks started the half on an 11-2 run to tie the game at 47-all just more than two minutes in and the back-and-forth game was on.
Barton appeared to have finally seized control again with less than three minutes to play, up 74-68. But Barton would score just one point the final two minutes. The Mavericks won the game with a pair of free throws by Darius Freeman with 2.2 seconds left. Barton had turned the ball over with eight seconds left.  
Keith Mack scored a career-high 24 points – 22 in the first half – to lead the Cougars. Tyron Acuff added 19 points and seven rebounds. Dequandre Dentmond led Barton with 11 rebounds to go with eight points.
Broderick Robinson led four Northwest Tech players in double figures with 23.
Two new faces appeared in the starting lineup Saturday and Mack did not play following his 24-point night.
“I’m going to play the kids that work hard and create a good image for our team and our school,” Coach Fletchall said. “It isn’t about just the points you score. It is how you play and the energy you play with.”
The new lineup worked immediately as Barton bolted out to an 8-0 lead Saturday against Brown Mackie and never trailed. The lead grew to 18-4. The Cougars led 40-24 at halftime.
“That is one of the advantages of playing in a classic,” Coach Fletchall said. “You can put a bad game out of your mind the next day. We were able to do that.”
The Lions would get the lead under 10 late in the game but never threatened the Cougars in the 14-point win.
Dentmond, one of those two new starters, had a big game for Barton with 24 points and six boards. The 24 points were a new career-high for the sophomore from Michigan. Ezekiel Charles added 19 and 13 rebounds for his first double-double. Derek Dorn scored 21 and John Barbee added 12.
The Cougars will open Jayhawk Conference play with road games at Pratt and Butler this week. The Cougars will travel to 6-3 Pratt Wednesday at 8 p.m. then off to 8-3 Butler Saturday for a 4 p.m. start.
“We have to be ready to pick up our game,” Coach Fletchall said. “The fact is we are 0-3 against NJCAA Division I teams. We have some nice wins but we are ready to play 19 straight DI teams.”