11/07/08 — Deacons overpower Trojans

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Deacons overpower Trojans

By MOC Sports Information
Published in Sports on November 7, 2008 1:46 PM

MOC Sports Information

WINSTON-SALEM -- No. 21-ranked Wake Forest used a 28-0 first-half run to break a tie and defeat Division II Mount Olive 97-62 in an exhibition game Thursday evening at the Lawrence Joel Coliseum.

Preseason All-America candidate Kendrick Easley scored all 15 of his team-high points in the first half, but sat out the second half. Easley suffered a slight neck injury after colliding with a Wake Forest defender, and landing hard in front of the Deacons' bench.

Easley's status is day-to-day.

"It's a pretty bad bruise and it's swollen pretty bad," said first-year Trojans head coach Joey Higginbotham. "I'll be honest with you, I thought it would be a lot worse than what it is now."

Ranked No. 18 in the Division II Bulletin preseason top 25 poll, Mount Olive forced 25 turnovers. But the Deacons countered with 11 blocked shots, including three each by 7-foot Ty Walker and 6-11 David Weaver. The Trojans had two players taller than 6-5 and none taller than 6-7.

After Wake Forest scored the first six points of the game, Easley's 3-pointer with 17:24 remaining in the first half capped a 7-0 run and gave Mount Olive its first lead. Easley sandwiched a pair of three-pointers around a Wake Forest basket to give Trojans a 13-12 lead with exactly 14 minutes left.

Jeff Teague's basket forced the fourth lead change of the game, but Easley hit 1-of-2 free throws to tie the game 14-14 with 12:50 remaining. The next six-plus minutes would belong to Wake Forest.

Weaver's dunk broke the tie and put the Demon Deacons ahead to stay. After hitting five of its first 10 shots of the game, Mount Olive missed its next 10 shots. Teague converted a three-point play to cap a 28-0 run and give Wake Forest a 42-14 lead with 6:31 remaining.

Easley's three-pointer - his fourth of the game - ended the Trojans' drought. Mike Holloman hit a three-pointer with 59 seconds left to bring Mount Olive with 20, but L.D. Williams finished a pair of fast break slam dunks in the final 18 seconds of the half to give Wake Forest a 54-30 lead at halftime.

The Deacons built as much as a 50-point lead in the second half.

Higginbotham was less concerned with the final score and more focused on his team's effort.

"We came in and we wanted to compete and battle for 40 minutes," said Higginbotham. "I told our guys that whether we're up 20 or down 20, we want to compete and that's what our guys did. I told them after the game I was proud of how they fought and played hard until the final buzzer."

Holloman finished with 11 points for the Trojans, while Cheeks added eight points and Griffin chipped in seven points, including 5-of-6 from the free throw line. Craig Hayes pulled down a team-high seven rebounds.

Freshman Derek Staton started at point guard for Mount Olive, in place of senior Justin Melton, who is out with a preseason knee injury. Staton dished out five assists and recorded a game-high four of the Trojans' 16 steals.

Williams led four Demon Deacons in double figures with 22 points on 10-of-14 shooting. Al-Farouq Aminu notched a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds, while Teague dished out a game-high 12 assists.

"Wake Forest is an extremely talented team," said Higginbotham. "Everything they have gotten so far in the preseason, they definitely deserve. "It was a good night for our guys," said Higginbotham. "We came in here and had nothing to lose and a lot to gain. We are a better team leaving this gym than we were when we came in.

"It was a good night for our guys. We came in here and had nothing to lose and a lot to gain. We are a better team leaving this gym than we were when we came in."

Thursday's contest was Mount Olive's third exhibition game in five years against an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent. The Trojans faced North Carolina in 2004 and North Carolina State in 2005.

Mount Olive tips off its season Nov. 15 against No. 14-ranked Lenoir-Rhyne in the Catawba College Classic.