Eddie Piccinini (Orlando, Fla.) scored a season-high 30 points, shooting 64 percent from the field on 7-of-11 shooting. His 16 second-half points helped King overcome a four-point halftime deficit and keep a safe distance until the final buzzer.
King built a lead as large as 13 points during the first ten minutes of the opening half. Through the first ten minutes, both teams combined for 53 points with the Tornado holding a 32-21 advantage. Holding on to a lead of 10 points, King's shooting edge began to slip as they missed their next four shots and turned the ball over twice. Barton made up ground, scoring on five of their next six possessions including two and-ones. Barton began a 19-3 run with under eight minutes remaining in the opening session, taking a 46-42 lead with under five minutes at the end of the run.
Barton fed into their lead, building it to as many as seven points after Jaren Haley hit a three-point shot to take a 51-44 lead over the Tornado. King chipped back into the Barton lead with jumpers made by Brandon Goss (St. Louis, Mo.) and a pair by Brian Hewitt (Lexington, Ky.) to pull within one point, 51-50. One last bucket and a made free throw by the Bulldogs' Aaron Suggs gave Barton a four-point lead heading into the half, though King would come out of the gates ready to retake and hold on to the lead.
A back-and-forth battled enraged with King slowly making up ground, led by Piccinini's 16 second-half points and Michael Fortune's 11 points, but with eight minutes to go in the game the Tornado took back the lead they had for a majority of the first half with a three by the junior from Beckley, W.Va. to put King back on top, 74-73.
Once the Tornado regained the lead, they never relinquished it back to the visiting Bulldogs. Lio Gedeon (Marsh Harbor, Bahamas) began the Tornado's final breakaway when he hit a jumper from eight feet out on the right side of the lane after a fed from Piccinini to put the Navy and Scarlett up by five with just over four minutes to go. Despite an attempt to break back into the game, Piccinini staved off a Barton attack with a three-pointer from the top of the key to keep the Tornado up by four and under three to go, 86-82.
Freshman Logan Lyle (Unicoi, Tenn.) helped ice the victory when he went up for a three from the right wing and was fouled by Jon Hart, resulting in three free throw attempts, all made to increase the lead to seven points, 89-82, with 1:22 remaining. From that point on, only seven of the remaining 19 points were scoring on a field goal attempt, all by Barton. However, the battle fought by way of free throws was won by the Tornado and resulted in the hosts holding off the Bulldogs and clinging on to a 98-92 win. Down the stretch, King hit 12-of-13 free throw attempts in the final two minutes of the game.
Hewitt was nine points off the pace of his teammate from Orlando, Fla., finishing with 21 points on the evening for his ninth straight game with 10 or more points in a game, tying Piccinini for the longest such streak of the season. Gedeon was two points away from a double-double but posted his second straight 10-plus rebound game. Logan Lyle shot with a hot hand, hitting 4-of-6 from the field, a perfect 3-for-3 from long range and hit all three of his free throw attempts in addition to totaling eight rebounds. Michael Fortune was the final of four Tornado team members to end with double-digit point totals, finishing with 19 points on 4-of-5 shooting from three-point range.
King (15-3, 7-0) remains atop Conference Carolinas in both overall and league play with the win. They will play the Erskine Flying Fleet in Belk Arena (Due West, S.C.) on Jan. 24 at 7:30 p.m. before engaging in a rematch of their first conference matchup against Limestone College at home on Jan. 26.