11/16/11 — Trojans' goal to play complete each game

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Trojans' goal to play complete each game

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 16, 2011 1:48 PM

A complete 40-minute game of competing, playing strong defense and rebounding is the goal of the Mount Olive College men's basketball team each time it takes the court this season.

There's added incentive this weekend. The Trojans (2-0 overall) tip off the home portion of their season against Brevard during the 46th annual Pickle Classic on Friday and Saturday inside Kornegay Arena. Game time is 7:30 p.m.

Barton faces Virginia State in the opener at 5:30 p.m.

Mount Olive has won two consecutive Classics and 17 of 20 overall since 1990.

"Our guys are getting excited (and) hopefully the campus is getting excited," said Trojans head coach Joey Higginbotham. "The alumni coming back are excited, so we hope to put on a good show. We've got basketball to play and we've got to play our game no matter who is here.

"We'll see how it goes."

The Trojans opened their season with back-to-back victories over Tusculum (Tenn.) and Anderson (S.C.) in the SAC-Conference Carolinas Challenge last weekend.

Higginbotham complimented the team on its ability to complete at a high level and play relentless on the glass. Turnovers and careless fouls, however, bothered the fourth-year head coach.

MOC averaged 19.5 miscues and 25 fouls per game during the two-day event.

"We competed ... might not have done it smartly at times, but the guys played hard," said Higginbotham. "We have to be consistent for 40 minutes instead of five and six minutes, and making silly fouls and taking ourselves out of the game.

"We teach execution, but we don't teach effort. They're buying into it slowly but surely."

Senior guard Derek Staton, who has received All-American attention from three publications, played a steady floor game with 18 points, eight boards, five assists and five steals in the season-opening triumph over Tusculum. He followed that up with a 19-point, six-assist effort against Anderson.

The Trojans also welcomed back seniors Craig Hayes and Kason Cheeks, who endured season-ending injuries a year ago. Hayes averaged 14.5 points and 5.5 rebounds, while Cheeks contributed three points and 4.5 boards.

The trio comprised the starting lineup each game along with Dory Hines and Mahamed Ibrahim. Overall, 10 players scratched in the scoring column during the Classic.

"It was great to see Craig and Kason back on the floor again helping us be the best we can," said Higginbotham. "Those two guys bring a lot to our team, to our program in general. I was pleased with our depth. We didn't lose much when we went to the bench.

"The guys off the bench brought us energy."