MOC men win over Erskine
By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on February 18, 2012 11:11 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- What started as a senior night blowout turned into a back-and-forth tussle.
Mount Olive watched a 19-point halftime lead evaporate before hanging on for an 83-72 win over Erskine on Saturday night inside a packed Kornegay Arena.
The first several minutes of the opening half were played at a frantic pace with both teams converting in transition. The Flying Fleet took a 14-12 lead on Travis Liner's 3-pointer. The Trojans answered with five straight points to grab a 19-14 advantage.
Erskine stayed in the game early on largely due to its 3-point shooting. The Flying Fleet hit four shots from beyond the arc in the first half including two 3-pointers from Liner.
Mount Olive senior point guard Derek Staton became the first player in school history to reach 500 career assists as he fed Mahamed Ibrahim for a 3-pointer from the corner late in the first half.
"It means a lot to me," Staton said. "Assists and points are always the same to me. I get the same joy from assists and points. My freshman year I said I wanted to break the assist record. It says I'm unselfish and I care more about the team than my own personal stats."
The Trojans (17-7, 10-4 CC) closed the first half on a 19-1 run and led 44-25 at the break. Craig Hayes paced Mount Olive with 20 points in the first half.
Erskine (9-17, 4-10) opened the second half on a 23-5 run and DeShaun Hall's layup pulled the Flying Fleet to within 49-48. During that stretch, Erskine beat the Trojans to loose balls, won the battle on the glass and converted turnovers into points.
Filip Pejovic's 3-pointer tied the game at 57-57 with 10 ? minutes to play. It was the first tie since the early moments of the game when the score was 2-2.
"They are the first time that has shot the ball that deep on us and made shots," Higginbotham said. "They shot the ball three or four steps behind the 3-point line and made us extend a little bit and play some man-to-man."
Hayes' and Dory Hines both delivered three-point plays down the stretch and Jordan McCain's layup with 2 minutes to play increased the lead to 78-68.
Hayes, Staton and Cheeks, were honored before the game. Hayes finished with 31 points and 12 rebounds, marking his fourth career game with at least 30 points. Staton supplied 14 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds. Cheeks had nine points despite missing the majority of the second half with an ankle injury.
"No words can put into what those three guys mean to this program but to me as a person," Higginbotham said. "Those three guys are very special to me. All of three of them are class acts and all three are going to graduate. They do whatever we ask and I'm going to cherish every last minute I have with those three guys."
Corey Sorrell led Erskine with 17 points.
Mount Olive visits St. Andrews on Tuesday.