11/12/04 — MOC-UNC men's preview

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MOC-UNC men's preview

Published in Sports on November 12, 2004 1:55 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Tonight could mark the most anticipated game in Mount Olive College men's basketball history. And it won't even count on the Trojans' record.

Mount Olive goes up against the University of North Carolina for the first time in school history as the Trojans take on the nationally third-ranked Tar Heels in a men's basketball exhibition game at Chapel Hill.

Tip-off is 7:30 p.m. at the Dean E. Smith Center.

Mount Olive is coming off a 62-46 loss at UNC Wilmington Saturday in an exhibition game. Sharome Holloway recorded a double-double for the Trojans with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Victor Young added 12 points and six rebounds.

North Carolina defeated Division II Winston-Salem State 113-54 Friday. Rashad McCants and Jawad Williams led six players in double figures with 21 points apiece.

Trojan head coach Bill Clingan looks forward to the game and what it means for his team.

"Playing one of the nation's elite teams like North Carolina is a great experience for the kids and for our program," said Clingan. "I believe this kind of experience will improve us as a team and we hope to carry that level of play throughout the whole season."

The game came about because of a ruling by the NCAA prohibiting competition against non-collegiate teams. This year, instead of playing traveling "all-star" teams, many Division I schools are playing exhibition games against non-Division I schools in their state.

Tar Heel head coach Roy Williams says he used to schedule exhibition games against non-Division I schools when he coached at Kansas.

"We played in-state Division II schools at Kansas and it was a big success for both parties, as it was last year when we played North Carolina Central," said Williams, who is in his second year at UNC. "I think you will see more of this now that the NCAA has ruled you can't play the traveling teams. We get to play against good competition and the in-state schools get a chance to compete in the Smith Center."

Mount Olive is coming off its best-ever season, which featured a school-record 23 wins, including a school-record 11-game winning streak, its first-ever national top 25 ranking and its first-ever appearance in the NCAA Division II Tournament. The Trojans were also on television sets coast-to-coast and around the world, thanks to Marcus West's 80-foot buzzer-beater to defeat Pfeiffer 108-105.

While the Trojans graduated six seniors from last year's squad, including five full- or part-time starters, Mount Olive regularly played up to 11 players each game, meaning the Trojans have a great deal of experience coming back this year.

Holloway, a 6-8 forward/center, earned All-Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference honorable mention last year and was a preseason All-CVAC selection this year. Maurice Horton, a 6-0 junior guard from Hampton, Va., moved into the starting lineup the final month of the season after an injury to point guard Janson Greene and went on to earn All-Tournament honors at last year's CVAC Tournament.

Technically, tonight's contest is not the first men's basketball game between Mount Olive and UNC. Last year, the Trojans' junior varsity team took on the Tar Heels' JV squad. But tonight is the first meeting between the two schools' varsity teams.

Mount Olive Director of Student Activities Julie Beck says there has been tremendous excitement on campus about the game since it was announced in August. The demand for tickets among students inspired a contest to demonstrate students' knowledge of Mount Olive College athletics past and present.

"The Student Government Association wanted to be a part of this exciting event and purchased 50 tickets for students," said Beck. "A student had to correctly answer a trivia question on Mount Olive athletics to win a ticket. We'll be taking three van loads of students to Chapel Hill for the game."

Among the trivia questions: "Who threw the inbounds pass to Marcus West for his 80-foot buzzer-beater?" The correct answer is Victor Young, who says he is excited about playing against the Tar Heels in the Dean Dome, but is also trying to keep the game in perspective.

"This is a chance for a lot of guys to get some exposure and it will help prepare us for regular season and conference play," said Young, a junior guard from Goldsboro and a graduate of Goldsboro High School. "I'm trying not to think too much about the UNC mystique. They're tremendous players, but we all tie our shoes the same way. Once the ball's tossed, we're just going to play some basketball."

UNC advanced to the second round of last year's NCAA Tournament after a two-year absence. The Tar Heels are ranked No. 3 in the ESPN/USA Today Preseason Top 25 and are ESPN analyst Dick Vitale's pick to win the 2004-05 national championship.

Despite the national rankings and the Tar Heel basketball tradition, Trojan forward Plinio Broering says he is also trying to balance the excitement of playing against UNC with working to prepare for the 2004-05 regular season.

"Carolina is one of the best teams in the country, and we're all excited about getting to play against them," said Broering, a senior from Santa Catarina, Brazil. "I think it will be a great learning experience, something that will carry over throughout the season."

Broering added, "Once the game starts, we'll be able to focus on basketball. We'll probably be watching them some during pre-game and warm-ups. And after the game, we might ask for a few autographs."

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