11/16/10 — MOC wins season opener

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MOC wins season opener

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on November 16, 2010 1:47 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Part of growing up and finding an identity is learning how to close out ballgames.

Mount Olive took a positive step in that direction on Monday night.

The 25th-ranked Trojans watched a 12-point second-half lead shrink to two, but hung on for a 63-59, season-opening win over Lenoir-Rhyne on Monday night at Kornegay Arena.

Mahamed Ibrahim's 3-pointer with fewer than nine minutes to play in the game stretched the lead to 54-42.

The Bears made a late push and Jon Hathcock's free throw trimmed the lead to 58-52 with fewer than three minutes to play.

Derek Staton missed a pair of free throws and Lenoir-Rhyne's D.J. Blackmon cut the deficit to 58-54 with two free throws with 2:18 left in the game. Blackmon's jumper with 1:25 to play pulled the Bears to within 58-56. Ibrahim's putback gave Mount Olive a 60-56 lead with fewer than 60 seconds left.

Blackmon finished with a game-high 29 points.

The Trojans' Brandon Allen missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 19 seconds left, which gave the Bears an opportunity to tie the game. Lenoir-Rhyne was whistled for an offensive foul and Ibrahim's free throws with two seconds left sealed the victory.

"It was good to see this young experienced team grind it through and pull it out," said Trojans' head coach Joey Higginbotham. "To be a young sophomore, those two free throws from Ibrahim were big. I thought it was a great team win."

Mount Olive played relentless on the defensive end of the floor throughout the first half. The Trojans forced eight turnovers and out-rebounded L-RC, 17-10.

Allen's fourth 3 of the first half and Staton's jump shot increased the lead to 27-17 more than midway through the first half. Allen was 4 of 8 from 3 in the first half and finished with 15 points.

Hathcock's layup pulled the Bears to within 33-26 at the half.

"We grinded it through," said Higginbotham. "It was a total team effort. Team defense, team offense. Everything was a total team effort."

Ibrahim joined Allen in double figures with 15 points. Kason Cheeks added 11 points. Freshman Dory Hines, a Kinston High alum, added 10 points.

"We're going to have some balance," said Higginbotham. "We don't have that one guy you can kind of key on right now. That's hopefully a good thing for us because if we can get four or five guys in double figures every night I'll take it every night."

Mount Olive (1-0 overall) plays host to the 45th annual Pickle Classic this weekend. The Trojans entertain North Georgia on Friday, and face Mars Hill on Saturday.