02/09/10 — MOC picks up defensive intensity

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MOC picks up defensive intensity

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 9, 2010 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Listless and lacking emotion, Mount Olive trudged into the locker room with a one-point, halftime advantage Monday evening.

Mike Holloman provided the Trojans' second-half spark.

The senior guard tallied 17 of his 21 points in the second 20 minutes of action, and Mount Olive turned back Coker (S.C.) College 82-65 in Conference Carolinas play at Kornegay Arena. The Trojans (17-5 overall, 14-1 CC) swept the regular-season series against the Cobras for the eighth consecutive year.

Coker (9-11, 6-8) dictated the tempo in the opening half, working precious seconds off the shot clock and controlling the boards. The Cobras built a seven-point lead before the Trojans closed with an 8-0 run.

"Maybe we were still jet-lagged or whatever you want to call it from Saturday (a loss at Anderson)," said MOC head coach Joey Higginbotham. "We were just slow at everything. We made some adjustments at half and the guys responded to those adjustments well. I believe the defensive side won the game for us tonight, especially in the second half.

"It was a good win against a tough team to guard because they run their stuff, run their stuff, run their stuff."

The Trojans played more active on defense, deflected passes and disrupted Coker's offense in the second half. Holloman's 3-pointer off Kendrick Easley's assist fueled an 11-0 run, which gave MOC a 42-32 advantage.

The Cobras answered with their own spurt and closed the gap to 42-39 on Mason Ambler's layup off Joselle Bracy's assist. Ambler led all scorers with a game-high 24 points, but Coker could never retake the lead.

Holloman knocked down seven consecutive points after Ambler's basket and Easley's layup boosted the lead to 51-41. Again, the Cobras pulled within 53-48 on Vatrick Thompson's jumper before Easley, the reigning conference player of the year, warmed up on the perimeter.

A preseason All-American, Easley swished back-to-back 3-pointers in transition and sank four consecutive free throws to squash Coker's final comeback attempt. Easley collected 18 points and inched closer to the school's all-time scoring record with 2,028 career points.

"Mike ignited us," said Higginbotham. "Easley had that stretch and we all know they both can score in bunches. Craig (Hayes) didn't have a bad game. We got some offense out of our defense, and that's what we did in the second half."

Hayes just missed a double-double with 22 points and eight rebounds. Lamonte Theus chipped in 11 for the Trojans, who compiled an efficient 24 points off 23 Coker turnovers.