02/02/10 — MOC men top Limestone

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MOC men top Limestone

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on February 2, 2010 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Hard-pressed to get a defensive stop all night, Mount Olive finally came up with one when it needed it most.

The Trojans played solid defense at the end of the game and escaped with an 87-84 win over Conference Carolinas opponent Limestone on Monday night at Kornegay Arena.

The Saints had possession trailing 85-84 with fewer than two minutes to play, but lost the ball out of bounds. On its next trip down the floor, Limestone's Danny Friend missed a pair of free with 10 seconds left.

Mount Olive's Craig Hayes came down with the rebound and Derek Staton's free throws with three seconds left sealed the win.

"We didn't play very good defense, but I thought when it came down to crunch time we got the stop when we needed to get the stop," said Trojans head coach Joey Higginbotham. "Derek hit two big free throws."

The Saints shot 63 percent in the second half, 60 percent for the game and were 11 for 20 from 3-point range. Friend led four Limestone players in double figures with 18 points.

"I think Limestone is a super team," said Higginbotham. "They are a tough ballclub, and we were not focused and ready to play tonight. Defensively, our rotations weren't there and we weren't communicating. We got a wake-up call tonight, but we still got the result we wanted."

The teams battled through 11 lead changes and eight ties before Mount Olive (15-4 overall, 12-0 CC) opened the second half on a 16-8 run. The Trojans, ranked No. 5 in the Division II Southeast Region poll, took their biggest lead, 58-45, on Kendrick Easley's free throws.

The Saints (10-7, 6-6) refused to go away and twice pulled to within a single point before taking an 84-83 lead on Jarrell Douglass's layup with fewer than two minutes left. Limestone entered the game ranked No. 10 in the region.

Easley got into an offensive rhythm with 16 first-half points and finished with a game-high 34, including a 7 for 12 effort from beyond the arc. The senior scored in double figures for the 16th time in 17 games this season.

"I was coming off screens and my teammates were finding me," said Easley. "It's all about staying confident in my game. I was shooting them and they were going in. As a leader of this team it's my job to step up when my team needs me.

"I know what I can do and I just go out there and play aggressive and play with my ability, and let the chips fall where they may."

The first half was a back-and-forth struggle with five ties and nine lead changes. Craig Hayes' layup and Easley's 3-pointer game the Trojans a 42-37 lead just before halftime.

Hayes and Lamonte Theus each contributed 14 points.

Mount Olive has now won 10 consecutive games and is a victory shy of tying the school record set during the 2003-04 season. The Trojans last won 10 straight games during the 2008-09 campaign.

"We're going to get everybody's best shot and we still have to get better," said Higginbotham. "To get everybody's best shot we've got to get better too. We've got to be ready to play, none of them are going to be easy."

Mount Olive visits Belmont Abbey on Wednesday.