01/16/05 — CVAC -- Mount Olive come alive defensively in 2nd half

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CVAC -- Mount Olive come alive defensively in 2nd half

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on January 16, 2005 2:00 AM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Mount Olive entered Saturday's NCAA Division II Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference contest with Lees-McRae three games ahead of the Bobcats in the standings.

For most of a competitive first half, the difference between the two didn't seem that great.

The second half was a much different story.

Keyed by a strong performance from sophomore Elijah Rouse, the Trojans turned a 43-39 halftime lead into a 12-point advantage in just three minutes after intermission on their way to an 86-72 win.

Rouse finished with a career-high 22 points, 18 coming in the second half on 7 of 7 shooting from the floor. For the game, Rouse was 9 of 10, while also grabbing 11 boards with leading rebounder Sharome Holloway saddled with foul trouble through most of the game.

Rouse, starting for the second straight game for a banged-up Chris Bartley, turned in his second double-double in a row and scored the first eight points of the second half.

"We weren't playing our game in the first half, and that's what we talked about in the locker room," Rouse said. "We needed to hustle a little bit more in the second half and get better shots."

The win improved regionally 10th-ranked Mount Olive to 11-2 overall and 5-1 in the CVAC heading into Monday's tilt at home against Belmont Abbey. Tip-off is 7:30 p.m.

The Bobcats (4-9) fell to 1-5 in conference play.

"We got in some foul trouble. Our best player (Treek Ramseur) sits out 16 minutes in the first half, then he had a tough time getting going in the second half," Lees-McRae coach Randy Unger said. "It was a winnable game for us, but they are one of the better teams in our league. We are 1-5 now, but we still have a lot of games left and a lot left at home.

"Mount Olive is one of the top two teams in our league, and they are very well-coached. You've got to give them a lot of credit."

The Trojans' leading scorer and sophomore Elton Coffield added 19 points, including a 5 of 8 performance from behind the 3-point line. Juniors Melvin Creddle and Maurice Horton added 18 and 12 points, respectively.

Veteran Mount Olive coach Bill Clingan praised the improved defensive intensity in the second half. After the Trojans switched from a man-to-man defense in the first half to more zone and zone-pressing after the break, Lees-McRae shot just 36.4 percent in the second after shooting 48 percent in the first.

Goldsboro High graduate Victor Young and Maurice Horton had four steals each for the Trojans, a handful leading to easy transition baskets in the second half. Young also had a season-high eight assists.

"We changed up our defense and I think it caught them by surprise and gave them momentum," Clingan said. "We got enough energy to get that lead, and it carried us the rest of the game."

Coffield and Creddle knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers near the 10-minute mark of the second half, while Young followed with a steal and layup to push Mount Olive ahead 65-50. In the first 10 minutes after intermission, the Trojans outscored the Bobcats 23-11.

Four minutes later, Lees-McRae got as close as 70-60, but the Trojans answered with a run of their own. Horton completed a three-point play the hard way to extend the advantage to 80-65 with 3:40 left as Lees-McRae never recovered.

"At the end, we just took off," Rouse said. "A lot of teams have that one guy to get the ball to. We don't have that one guy ... anybody can explode at any time. If we keep that up, we can make a good run through the conference."

Lees-McRae's Aaron Dugger nailed his team's fourth straight 3-pointer at the 12:37 mark of the first to give the Bobcats a 19-14 advantage. But Rouse and Coffield helped the Trojans score nine unanswered.

Mount Olive built a five-point lead, before Dugger's third three put Lees-McRae back on top 39-38 with 1:36 left in the half. Coffield followed with another from behind the arc, while Creddle nailed 2 of 2 at the line to give the Trojans a 43-39 lead at intermission.

Mount Olive never trailed again.

"We talked about some of the miscues and giving them second-chance points. Lees-McRae is a talented team. I knew coming in we needed to respect them, because they have some outstanding individuals," Clingan said. "This league from top to bottom ... there is enough talent that you have to take care of your home court and get some on the road to be a conference champion."

Notes: Mount Olive tallied 24 points off turnovers, while Lees-McRae recorded 15 off of Trojans' miscues. Led by Rouse, Mount Olive owned the points in the paint by a 40-14 margin ... also converting 15 second-effort points to only five by the Bobcats. The win was at least the Trojans fifth straight against Lees-McRae, dating back to the 2002-2003 sesaon.