01/18/07 — CVAC Archrivals square off tonight

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CVAC Archrivals square off tonight

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on January 18, 2007 2:36 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Chris Bartley said it best Monday evening regarding tonight's matchup against archrival Barton College.

"The past is the past," the Mount Olive College senior said.

Yeah, maybe.

But the past between these two archrivals certainly isn't forgotten. The Bulldogs have won the last four meetings, including a classic battle in the NCAA Division II East Regional semifinals nearly one year ago.

"I think it's a great basketball rivalry and has developed into a showcase for college basketball in eastern North Carolina," said Mount Olive head coach Bill Clingan. "You've got some super players out there and each team has respect for the other. There's always been good sportsmanship by the fans and players."

Mount Olive (11-4 overall) carries a three-game win streak into tonight's game and has yet to lose in six outings at home this season. Barton, which recently dropped from the NABC Division II top 25 rankings, is 9-4 overall and 7-0 against Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference foes.

The Bulldogs, who have won 25 of their last 27 regular-season CVAC contests, are coming off back-to-back 100-point performances. They outslugged nationally-ranked and in-state rival Pfeiffer 122-97 and put 101 points on the board Monday against Queens University.

"They've got a lot of talent and they are well-organized offensively and defensively," said Clingan. "Right now, they are probably playing their best basketball (of the season)."

Clingan said Barton has switched to a more up-tempo style of play this season. The Bulldogs heavily depend on senior guards Anthony Atkinson and Bobby Buffaloe to jump-start their offense.

Atkinson, a preseason All-America candidate, dished out an NCAA-era school record 13 assists against Pfeiffer. The 5-foot-10 guard's explosiveness concerns Clingan, who said that Atkinson's quickness and his ability to read opposing defenses is phenomenal. Atkinson has averaged 22.5 points in his last two outings.

"When he penetrates like he does, any (defensive) help that comes to him, he does a great job of reading and kicking to the open man," said Clingan.

Mount Olive has played superb defense during its three-game win streak and has held each opponent to less than 70 points.

Clingan said there are numerous keys to tonight's game, but pointed out patience on offense and limiting Barton's second-chance opportunities. The Trojans must recognize who is open during their halfcourt sets, and cannot rush the play.

Mount Olive needs to control the boards and prevent Barton from scoring in the transition phase of its offense.

"They are pushing the ball a little bit more than last year," said Clingan. "We know their personnel and their style. What we need to do is play our game and not play their game."

The Trojans rank seventh nationally in scoring (88.0 points), fifth in blocked shots and 26th in assists. Senior guard Elton Coffield is one of four MOC players who averages double figures and ranks among the nation's top 3-point shooters (47.7 percent).

Junior transfer Brandon Streeter, senior veteran Elijah Rouse and freshman guard Kendrick Easley also average double figures. Rouse is shooting a crisp 60.9 percent from the floor.

Newcomer Josh Brown has averaged double figures in each of his last three contests, including a career-high 17-point effort against Belmont Abbey on Monday. Brown is filling the void for starting point guard Justin Melton, who continues to nurse an ankle sprain.

"I think we've adjusted to our chemisty, which is the best it's been all year,"said Clingan. "The six new kids are still learning our system and getting experience.

"The guys are working hard and seeing that the hard work does pay off. I think it will be a great matchup and I look for a super game on our part.

"I know the effort is going to be there."

Notes: Melton is expected to be a game-time decision for tonight. ... During halftime, 111 MOC student-athletes, more than half of the student-athlete population, will be recognized for making the fall semester honor roll. Students must have a 3.0 GPA to qualify. ... Senior F Chris Bartley, who returned Monday evening, will see limited playing time. ... Mount Olive is 22-2 overall since College Hall was renamed Kornegay Arena and both losses have occurred against Barton. ... One of the Bulldogs' four losses came against Chowan, which the Trojans have beaten twice this season.


Editor's note: MOC sports information direction David Shulimson contributed to this story.