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Higginbotham: Trojans must bring their 'A' game each night during Pickle Classic

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 16, 2012 1:48 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Mount Olive finds itself at a disadvantage when the 47th annual Pickle Classic tips off Friday evening.

The Trojans have yet to play a game, while their three guests -- West Virginia State, Lenoir-Rhyne and Fayetteville State -- have played two games apiece.

"That will bring us some motivation that first game to play well in front of our home crowd," fifth-year MOC head men's basketball coach Joey Higginbotham said. "Both nights we're going to have to bring our 'A' game and be ready for a fight. It's going to be a good weekend and there is going to be some really good basketball ... high-quality Division II teams with quality athletes and some great coaching, too."

Lenoir-Rhyne (2-0 overall) faces Fayetteville State at 5 p.m. with WVSU (1-1) taking on the host Trojans at 7:30 p.m. inside Kornegay Arena.

Play in the two-day Classic continues Saturday with a triple-header. The Trojan women (1-0) launch their Conference Carolinas season against Converse (S.C.) College at noon. Lenoir-Rhyne opposes WVSU at 5 p.m. and the MOC men conclude the night against Fayetteville State.

Tickets are $10 at the door for each game. All-session passes are $15.

The five games are part of a three-day homecoming celebration that includes the annual MOC Athletics Hall of Fame induction and numerous campus activities that welcome back alumni.

"It's a great weekend for our team, program and institution," Higginbotham said.

Mount Olive got a wake-up call during its 37-point, exhibition loss at Division I Old Dominion University. Higginbotham and his staff walked away pleased with their young post players, but said the Trojans faltered on the perimeter and in their transition game.

They'll battle a Yellow Jackets team that seeks redemption after a paltry shooting effort in a 63-40 loss to Mercyhurst (Pa.) University in the WVIAC-PSAC Challenge. West Virginia State shot a miserable 17 percent in the opening half and just 23 percent for the game.

JUCO transfer Anton Hutchins led WVSU with 11 points in the loss.

Lenoir-Rhyne has victories over Conference Carolinas members Limestone (S.C.) and Queens-Charlotte. Junior center Matt Kunz is averaging a double-double -- 12.5 points, 11.5 rebounds. Sophomore guard Denzel Dillingham is scoring 18.5 an outing, while senior guard BJ Beasley is contributing 10 points each time he steps onto the court.

Fayetteville State (1-1) enters on the heels of a 84-79 loss to No. 24-ranked Barton College. Sophomore guard Anthony Shelton and junior forward Tyrell Tate are pumping in 21.5 and 20 points, respectively, per game.

"The Pickle Classic is one of the defining moments of Mount Olive College basketball every year," Higginbotham said. "I just want to see us get better, continue to improve."