01/21/10 — MOC ready for Barton men

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MOC ready for Barton men

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on January 21, 2010 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- If the names on the front of the jerseys don't fire you up, what's at stake certainly should.

When Mount Olive and Barton renew their rivalry tonight inside Kornegay Arena, there will be more than just bragging rights on the line. Sole possession of first place in Conference Carolinas will be up for grabs.

The Trojans and Bulldogs both enter the contest unbeaten in conference play and each is riding a six-game winning streak. Mount Olive (11-4 overall, 8-0 CC) has won its last three home games against Barton and is 6-0 at Kornegay Arena this season.

Pre-season All-American and reigning Conference Player of the Year Kendrick Easley continues to lead Mount Olive in scoring at 25 points a game.

A senior from Norfolk, Va., Easley has scored in double figures in all 13 games he's played this season including 10 games with 20 or more points. He also missed a pair of contests earlier this season due to injury.

Mike Holloman, Lamonte Theus and Craig Hayes each average 12 points a game. Point guard Derek Staton provides 11 points a contest.

Production off the bench has been a bonus for Mount Olive in recent outings. The Trojans received 28 points from their reserves in Monday afternoon's 84-70 home win over Queens. Virginia Union transfer Brandon Allen contributed 16 points, including four 3-pointers and Holloman added 10 points.

"We definitely need that bench production," said Mount Olive head coach Joey Higginbotham. "We don't just need Mike producing off the bench. If we can get Brandon as that extra guy, that really helps us. As long as he keeps his confidence he can knock them down when he's open."

Ball security has been an issue as of late for the Trojans, who have turned the ball over 69 times in their last five games. Mount Olive gave the ball away 16 times on Monday.

The Bulldogs (11-3, 7-0) force 20 turnovers and score just as many points off those turnovers a game.

The Trojans will be faced with the task of slowing down Barton's 6-foot-6 senior forward Eddie Kershaw. A transfer from Ohio Valley University, Kershaw leads the Bulldogs in scoring at 14 points a game to go with eight rebounds a contest.

"We're going to have to defend and rebound, and take care of the ball," said Higginbotham. "It's going to be a grinder. It always is. We've got to get better with help-side defense and communicating."

Higginbotham knows harnessing the emotion of a rivalry game with first place in the conference on the line and sticking what to what his players do best will be paramount once the ball is tossed up tonight.

"It's another game and there's a little more on this game because it's a rivalry and you can't let your emotions make you do things you don't normally do," said Higginbotham. "You have to do the things you normally do and do them well. We've got to channel all that and collectively make a good team effort and get a big win."