Trojan men turn back East Division archrival
By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on February 15, 2012 1:48 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- At least for one more night, Kornegay Arena rocked the way it did in days of old.
Mount Olive got big-game efforts out of its veterans and rode the emotion of a boisterous, standing-room-only crowd to a 83-67 win over Conference Carolinas rival Barton on Tuesday night.
Senior Craig Hayes scored 17 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. Kason Cheeks added 16 points and 10 points as the Trojans stayed within reach of East Division leader Queens University of Charlotte.
Mount Olive used a 15-0 run early in the first half to build a 24-12 lead and send its black-clad student section into a frenzy. Hayes and Cheeks controlled the offensive glass during Mount Olive's early burst and Mahamed Ibrahim knocked down a 3-pointer in transition.
"When the crowd is in it after you hit a shot or even after you make a turnover it's a good feeling," said Hayes, who had a double-double -- 11 points, 10 rebounds -- by halftime. "The crowd hasn't been like this in a while. They really pushed us. We need it to be like this all the time."
Barton stayed within striking distance and pulled to within 38-31 on Aaron Brown's jump shot. Hayes' 3-pointer pushed the margin back to double digits at 41-31.
Gerald Boston's 3-pointer in the closing moments of the first half cut the Trojans' lead to 45-39 at halftime. Boston had 17 points at the break and eventually led all scorers with 25.
The Trojans (16-7 overall, 9-4 CC) moved the ball effectively in the half court and continued to manage their lead early in the second half. Hayes scored on consecutive possessions, Cheeks threw down a dunk and Dory Hines converted a three-point play.
After Barton (14-9, 6-7) pulled to within 59-51, Mount Olive scored seven unanswered points, capped by Ibrahim's layup that extended the lead to 66-51.
The Bulldogs continued to chip away and Jaren Haley's 3-pointer closed the margin to 66-58. Aaron Suggs layup with six minutes to play shrunk the Trojans' advantage to 68-62.
With the momentum beginning to shift Mount Olive spread the floor offensively and began to work the clock. Derek Staton's fall away jump shot as the shot clock expired pushed the lead back to 72-62.
Suggs' 3-pointer with fewer than 3 1/2 minutes to play gave Barton one last gasp. Ibrahim's 3-pointer with 90 seconds left increased the lead to 79-65 and put the game away. Staton contributed 16 points and Ibrahim added 14. Hines had 13 points.
Mount Olive held a 47-33 edge in rebounding including a 29-19 advantage on the defensive glass.
"We won the game on the defensive end," Trojans' head coach Joey Higginbotham said. "I was really pleased to hold a team that averages 90 points a game to 67 points. Defense and rebounding were our two biggest points of emphasis in the days leading up to the game. This was a great team effort."