01/18/11 — MOC rallies past Belmont Abbey

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MOC rallies past Belmont Abbey

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on January 18, 2011 1:47 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Joey Higginbotham does not need to worry about fans leaving the stands early.

The head coach at Mount Olive College has enjoyed his share of thrilling victories this season. Two days after hitting a game-winning basket at the buzzer to beat Coker, the Trojans overcame a double-digit deficit and escaped with a 69-64 win over Belmont Abbey on Monday.

"I think we are going to play a lot of games like that this season," said Higginbotham. "Our guys are not the kind of group to blow someone out, but they scrap for every possession and they know how to win close games."

The first half did not go well for MOC.

Belmont Abbey built a seven-point lead and a solid rebounding advantage behind strong play in the paint from Richard Barbee and Ian Parry.

The Crusaders held a 37-32 advantage and all the momentum by halftime. Higginbotham made adjustments to the team's man-to-man defense and the results showed at the perfect time.

"With about six minutes to go, we were down nine points and I thought we might be better off sagging back on some guys that weren't looking to shoot and helping on the penetrators," said Higginbotham. "We did a better job on the glass and we were able to create some transition opportunities."

Widespread foul trouble on the Crusader bench helped Mount Olive mount a comeback. The Trojans entered the double bonus with eight minutes left in the game and viciously drove into the paint to draw fouls.

Brandon Allen took full advantage.

Despite shooting just 3-for-10 from the field, Allen kept his head up and kept getting to the foul line. The normally potent guard buried all 10 of his free throws on the night including four in the final minute to push the Trojans ahead for good.

"My shot wasn't there, but coach told us to get aggressive and go to the rack," said Allen. "I am always pretty confident in my shot, but it was definitely nice to make a few free throws and get my stroke back."

Allen finished with a double-double 17 points and 11 rebounds. Derek Staton led the Trojans (9-6 overall, 4-3 CC) with 18 points.

Barbee paced the Belmont Abbey offense with a game-high 19 points. Jay Council added 13 points in the defeat.

After a stretch that has included three games in five days, Mount Olive will be back in action on Saturday when Erskine visits Kornegay Arena.