MOC slips past UNCP men
By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on December 13, 2011 1:48 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- What may have looked like one key defensive stand could prove to be one of the signature moments of Mount Olive's season.
The Trojans stood tall defensively for 32 seconds on a late possession and hung on for a 69-68, non-conference victory over UNC Pembroke on Monday night at Kornegay Arena.
Pembroke's Mike Robinson made a pair of free throws with 56 seconds to play to trim the deficit to 69-68. The Braves (6-4 overall) won a jump ball with 33 seconds left and called a timeout to set up their offense.
The Trojans turned in their biggest defensive stop of the ballgame and Mount Olive's Kendall Hargrove went to the free throw line with 1.2 seconds left. Hargrove missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and Pembroke's desperation heave at the buzzer just missed.
"The main thing was we had to rebound," Trojans' head coach Joey Higginbotham said. "We had guys going crazy after the ball. I was proud of our effort. That's a very good ball club that we beat. I think it's very important for our development that we fought back after losing a big lead in the second half.
"This is going to be a big win for us late in the season."
Mount Olive (7-1) began the game on an 12-2 run capped by 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions by Mahamed Ibrahim. The Trojans stretched the Braves' defense with dribble penetration, found open shooters on the wings and stretched a first-half lead to 23-10.
Pembroke battled back behind eight first-half points from Nathan Priest. The Braves used an effective 2-3 zone to slow down the Trojans' offense and cut the deficit to 36-32 at the half.
Pembroke took its first lead of the game at 42-40 on K.J. Cooper's three-point-play with more than 15 minutes remaining in the second half. The Braves' lead grew to 54-45 on Princeton graduate Ben Jacobs' layup with fewer than 10 1/2 minutes to play. Jacobs scored six points and grabbed seven rebounds.
Derek Staton's 3-pointer with a little more than seven minutes left pulled Mount Olive to within 57-56. Craig Hayes' later tied the game at 59-59 with a 3 of his own. Hayes' layup with 4 1/2 minutes left put the Trojans in front for good at 61-59. He finished with a game-high 24 points to go with seven rebounds and was 11 for 14 from the field.
"When Pembroke went to that 2-3 zone, we felt like as long as I kept cracking the zone and posting up down low it was going to open up everybody else," Hayes said. "The harder I work, I feel like the rest of the team is going to feed off of that and we're going to get better shots if I keep working hard down low."
Staton contributed 14 points and Mount Olive recorded 27 field goals on 23 assists. Shahmel Bracket led Pembroke with 14 points.
The Trojans travel to Wingate on Saturday.