02/29/08 — Bitter rivals play for high stakes Saturday

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Bitter rivals play for high stakes Saturday

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on February 29, 2008 3:48 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- A pair of bitter rivals.

A national television audience.

One club playing for a share of the conference title and perhaps the right to host an NCAA Division II tournament regional.

When it comes to college basketball in the south outside of Duke and North Carolina, it doesn't get much better than Mount Olive and Barton.

The Trojans and Bulldogs lock horns at noon in Wilson on Saturday with the game being televised live on CSTV and Fox Sports Net. The contest will mark Mount Olive's first-ever national television appearance.

"Any time Barton and Mount Olive play it's always a great rivalry," Trojans head coach Bill Clingan said. "Barton is wanting to get a regional berth and their playing on their home court in front of a national audience. We trying to get a conference championship. It's a different type of game which should give us some great experience."

Thanks to Pfeiffer's loss to Belmont-Abbey on Tuesday, Mount Olive (21-5, 16-3 CC) can clinch the Conference Carolinas regular season title outright with a win on Saturday.

Also at stake for the Trojans is the right to host an NCAA tournament regional. Mount Olive was ranked second in the latest regional poll and would most likely need to down the Bulldogs and win the Conference Carolinas tournament to have what Clingan described as an 'outside shot,' to have that dream become a reality.

The Trojans enter Saturday's showdown on the heels of a 75-65 home loss to Limestone last Saturday, while Barton (17-9, 13-6) fell 81-78 in overtime on Tuesday at St. Andrews.

"When you have a loss of that magnitude you realize that you need to go back to work," Clingan said of the loss to Limestone. "This time off gives us a chance to get our legs underneath us. Maybe we'll do a few new things during the week, but we're focused on one thing and that's Barton."

Mount Olive routed the defending Division II national champions 84-63 at Kornegay Arena in late January snapping a seven-game losing streak to Barton. The Trojans used a 12-0 second half run to blow open that contest.

Reigning men's conference player of the week Brandon Streeter matched a career high with 25 points on 10 of 12 shooting from the field. Kendrick Easley was the only other Mount Olive player to join Streeter in double-figures with 10 points.

The odds of that trend resulting in a season sweep of the Bulldogs are slim.

"I think everybody is going to have step up," Clingan said. "They all have to step up and not play above their heads. I think if we do we'll feel good about it when we walk off the court."

Barton shot a dismal 32 percent in that January meeting and an icy 19 percent from long range. A three-minute scoring drought, coupled with 12 second-half turnovers erased any chance the Bulldogs had of stealing a road win.

Mount Olive held Barton's leading scorer Bobby Buffaloe to his season points per game average of 13, while Buffaloe knocked three of the Bulldogs four 3's.

A hostile environment welcomed Barton to Kornegay Arena in January. A chorus of jangling keys sent a mass exodus of Bulldogs faithful on their way as the final seconds proceeded the Kornegay Krazies storming of the court.

The Trojans can expect to encounter a similar atmosphere inside Wilson Gym on Saturday. Executing with poise in a building full of animosity will be key for Mount Olive.

"There will be a lot of adrenaline flowing," Clingan said. "Whichever team makes the fewest mistakes and plays better defense should win. Both teams will be very well prepared. The fact that it's on national television and in many different regions brings a whole different light to it."