01/05/10 — Mount Olive bests Belmont Abbey men

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Mount Olive bests Belmont Abbey men

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on January 5, 2010 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- With as many players in street clothes as in uniform, Mount Olive took the floor with a number of question marks on Monday night.

A cast of new characters provided the answers.

The Trojans overcame a late deficit and seized a 82-74 victory over Belmont Abbey at Kornegay Arena and remained unbeaten in Conference Carolinas play this season.

"I am very proud of the guys tonight. This is a good win for us," said Mount Olive head coach Joey Higginbotham. "I have never seen a team go through so many injuries, and for our guys to come out and give a great effort like they did tonight is a great sign."

Leading scorer Kendrick Easley and fellow starter Mike Holloman each missed their second consecutive game with injuries. Justin Foskey also sat out with a bone bruise on his foot.

The Trojans did not miss a beat in the first half. Derek Staton and Craig Hayes provided the early offense and propelled the team to a nine-point lead. The duo combined for 22 points before the intermission.

"Derek and Craig came up huge for us," said Higginbotham. "They are the two guys that are used to starting and playing a lot of minutes, and we needed them to set our offense tonight."

The Crusaders responded in the second half.

Star guard Richard Barbee distributed the ball to open teammates and buried back-to-back shots to give Belmont Abbey a 64-63 lead. Mount Olive reserve guard Brandon Allen put the Trojans back in front with a pair of free throws and Hayes added two foul shots of his own. After a Crusader layup, Mount Olive's Lamonte Theus sank two free throws and Allen buried the game-clinching 3-pointer.

"Brandon stepped up and made a big shot off of our penetration," said Higginbotham. "That didn't necessarily end the game, but it gave us a three-possession lead."

Hayes paced the Trojan attack with 21 points and nine rebounds. Staton added 18 points and Allen contributed 16. Theus recorded a double-double with 15 points and 10 assists.

Barbee led the Crusaders with 18 points and seven rebounds.

Mount Olive (6-4 overall, 3-0 CC) plays host to Pfeiffer in a key conference clash Thursday evening. Anderson University comes to town on Saturday.

"This is a very big week with three of the better teams in our league coming to our gym," said Higginbotham. "Hopefully, as we get healthy, we can keep playing as well as we did tonight."

Easley is expected to return against Pfeiffer, but Higginbotham said that Holloman's minutes would be limited.