USC-Aiken drops Mount Olive men
By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on November 23, 2008 12:38 AM
MOUNT OLIVE -- First-year Mount Olive men's basketball coach Joey Higginbotham hoped a difficult early schedule would have his team ready for conference play.
With Conference Carolinas action beginning next week Higginbotham's hopes appear close to becoming a reality.
Mount Olive battled No. 1 USC Aiken for 40 minutes before ultimately falling 93-80 in the final game of the 43rd Pickle Classic on Saturday evening at Kornegay Arena.
The Trojans placed three different scorers in double-figures led by Kendrick Easley's game-high 25 points. Craig Hayes added 18 and freshman Derek Staton chipped in 13 points and eight assists.
Mount Olive also won the rebounding battle 41-33.
"Our kids battled their butts off," said Higginbotham. "We played a very, very, very good team. We were right there. I'm proud of the guys. This is going to make us a better team. I think we're right there and this is definitely going to prepare us for our league."
The Pacers (3-0) led 38-28 at the half and extended their lead to as much as 18 at 66-48. However, the Trojans would trim the margin to 78-70 on Hayes' layup with less than six minutes to play.
Mount Olive (1-3) would get no closer as Kingsley Oguchi knocked down a pair of 3's in the final five minutes for USC Aiken. The Pacers maintained their lead by getting to the free throw line 29 times in the second half and 47 times for the game.
Oguchi and Chris Commons each scored 20 points for USC Aiken.
"We were right there," said Higginbotham. "We just dug that hole early and we couldn't ever get over that happen. It's tough when you're trying to (come back) and the next thing you know they're going to the free throw line."
Mount Olive begins Conference Carolinas play on Tuesday when it hosts St. Andrews.
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