Rival showdown: Dogs come calling on Trojans
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on January 24, 2008 3:29 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- After watching archrival Barton College pull off a miraculous comeback in last year's NCAA Division II men's national title game, a few Mount Olive College players circled Jan. 24 on their respective calendars.
That day has finally arrived.
The two storied basketball programs, just 40 miles apart, meet this evening at Kornegay Arena. Tip-off is scheduled for approximately 7:30 p.m.
"It's a conference game with major implications. It's also a rivalry and you can throw everything out the window," said Mount Olive head coach Bill Clingan. "It's a great game for fans to see and a great game for players to play in, and we're looking forward to it."
The Trojans also have a little extra incentive as they reach the midway point in Conference Carolinas play. The Bulldogs have won seven consecutive games in the series and 18 of 28 overall since 1997-1998. Mount Olive's last victory over Barton occurred in 2004-05 when Clingan's team won all three meetings that season.
Mount Olive nearly got caught looking ahead earlier this week. The Trojans (12-3 overall) almost blew an 18-point lead against Belmont Abbey, but survived 93-85 thanks to some clutch defense in the final four minutes.
"You want to take it game by game, but in the back of your mind, you know you've got Barton (coming up)," said Trojans senior Brandon Streeter after the Abby win. "I'm thankful we were able to get this one past us so we can focus on Barton. We know it's going to be a great game with a lot of energy, but we have to stay focused ... poised.
"We can't do like we did today by getting antsy. We just have to play our game offensively and defensively."
The 6-foot-6 Streeter posted a double-double -- 22 points, 13 rebounds -- against Belmont Abbey, and averages 14.6 points per game. He's emerged the team's top rebounder in 10 contests this season and top scorer on five occasions.
Like Monday, Streeter expects to see multiple defenders each game.
"I'm used to it now and that whoever we go up against is going to throw it at me," said Streeter. "We work on it at practice. It's something I'm willing to deal with and am sure it's going to happen game after game."
Sophomore Kendrick Easley pumped in a team-leading 23 points against Belmont Abbey and averages 17.9 points an outing. The 6-1 guard is just one of three Trojans to start all 15 games this season along with sophomore guard Mike Holloman and junior point guard Justin Melton. Holloman and Melton each average nearly 10 points a game.
Barton's top two scorers are junior point guard Bobby Buffaloe (12.7 ppg) and sophomore Aaron Suggs (12.1). Senior Brian Leggett (11.9) and freshman Greg Mammel (11.1) also contribute quality minutes.
The Bulldogs (11-5) are 7-2 in Conference Carolinas play after dropping a home game to Queens on Monday evening. Queens trails the Trojans by one-half game in the standings and those two teams meet Saturday afternoon at Mount Olive.
"People don't understand how tough this conference is and how hard it is to get up and play these teams game after game," said Streeter. "But we're willing to step up to the challenge."
And maybe exact some revenge.
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