02/17/09 — MOC men fall to Belmont Abbey

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MOC men fall to Belmont Abbey

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on February 17, 2009 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- A late offensive flurry wasn't enough to propel Mount Olive to its 11th consecutive victory on Monday evening.

The Trojans endured a stagnant second half and dropped a 99-91 decision to Belmont Abbey in their Conference Carolinas men's basketball game at Kornegay Arena.

The Crusaders' forwards dominated the contest.

Seven-foot center Alex Pledger controlled the paint by blocking shots and scoring off of long entry passes. Power forward Chad Patus enjoyed equal success with a thrilling face-up game that translated into several open looks. The duo combined for 42 points on 17-21 shooting and 19 rebounds.

"I can live with the big man getting his points," said Mount Olive head coach Joey Higginbotham. "We didn't do a good job of guarding their other post players ... gave them to many open looks."

MOC guard Justin Melton set the tone in the opening half.

With his team trailing 9-0, Melton took control of the Trojans' half court offense. The diminutive senior poured in 14 points as Mount Olive turned the early deficit into a 46-42 halftime lead.

"Any time you get behind like we did in the first two minutes, you just aren't ready to play," said Higginbotham. "We battled back, but it wasn't enough."

MOC forward Craig Hayes, who was limited by foul trouble in the opening half, buried a long 3-pointer to open the second half. The Crusaders answered with back-to-back buckets and never looked back.

Led by Allen Iverson look-alike Jonathan Jackson, Belmont Abbey controlled the pace of play and racked up transition baskets.

A five-minute scoreless stretch that began with 11 minutes and 18 seconds to play doomed the Trojans. During that span, Belmont Abbey used a 13-0 run to build a 74-64 lead.

The Trojans made a last-ditch effort in the final two minutes, but four 3-pointers did not dent the Crusaders' advantage. Belmont Abbey buried 13 of 16 free throws down the stretch to seal the win.

"We have to take a look at this game and see what we can do to get better," said Higginbotham. "We got outplayed tonight and that is disappointing."

Melton and Kendrick Easley led the Trojans' offense with 23 points apiece. Hayes finished with 12 points and five rebounds. Dobson rounded out the MOC scorers in double figures with 10 points and six boards.

Belmont Abbey (17-7 overall, 13-4 CC) was paced by Richard Barbee's 26-point night. Patus added 23 points, while Pledger added 19 points. Jackson scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half to go along with eight assists and five rebounds.

Despite the loss, Mount Olive (16-8, 15-2) remains in first place in the conference standings. The Trojans entertain Erskine on Saturday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

"Erskine is a good team and we will have to be ready to play if we want to get it together," said Higginbotham. "We have three good teams left on the schedule. Tonight we were humbled at home and we need to learn from that."