02/26/09 — Trojans and Dawgs renew rivalry tonight

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Trojans and Dawgs renew rivalry tonight

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on February 26, 2009 1:46 PM

The "day" has arrived.

Archrivals Mount Olive and Barton College meet tonight at Wilson Gymnasium to determine the No. 1 seed for next week's Conference Carolinas men's basketball tournament.

The Trojans (18-8 overall, 17-2 CC) have already clinched a share of their second consecutive regular-season crown and need to win outright to secure homecourt advantage. The Bulldogs (20-6) trail by one game in the league standings.

Tip-off is 7:30 p.m.

"Everyone knows how big this game is," said Mount Olive head coach Joey Higginbotham. "There really isn't any need for extra incentive, we know what we have to do."

At the top of the Trojans' priority list is slowing down the fast-paced Bulldog offense. Barton is averaging 86 points per game and has topped the century mark three times this season. Their best offensive outing came in a 126-117 loss to in-state conference foe Pfeiffer.

With forward L.J. Dunn and outside shooting ace Bobby Buffaloe leading the way, the Dawgs have developed a balanced attack. Dunn led all scorers with 23 points in a nine-point win Tuesday at Belmont Abbey. Buffaloe added 18 points and the Bulldogs shot 49 percent from the field.

Stopping the inside-out duo sounds daunting, but the Trojans have already had success once this season. In the team's first meeting, a 68-66 Trojan victory on Jan. 22, Mount Olive held the Dawgs to their lowest-scoring output of the season.

On offense, the Trojans will need consistent play from point guard Justin Melton and energy from Mike Holloman in order to win the conference outright. Melton, a senior best known for his dishing, has been swishing shots form beyond the arc throughout the team's recent wins.

Melton is shooting 48.2 percent from long range on the season.

"Early in the year I started working on my outside game and now it is paying off," said Melton. "My teammates have been finding me and our offense has allowed me to be freed up (to shoot)."

Holloman played one of his best games when MOC upended Barton in January. The senior forward threw down two impressive dunks and racked up 17 points to go along with nine rebounds.

The Trojans will also need Kendrick Easley to continue his hot shooting and stellar perimeter defense. Easley poured in 28 points in Mount Olive's 82-68 win over Queens on Tuesday night. Easley is averaging 21.4 points per game.

"To go down to Queens and get a win is big because we haven't done that in two years," said Melton. "And that sets up the Barton game. Our games with them are always big."