01/25/13 — MOC women lose lead, ease past Crusaders

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MOC women lose lead, ease past Crusaders

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on January 25, 2013 1:47 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Mount Olive did just enough to pick up a pivotal Conference Carolinas victory on Thursday evening.

Knocking off the conference leader Saturday will require a lot more.

The Trojan women's basketball team saw a 12-point first half lead evaporate but made enough plays down the stretch to hang on for a 63-56 win over Belmont Abbey inside Kornegay Arena. Mount Olive plays host to league-leading Limestone at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

"Fortunately we tuned in and locked in at the right time tonight," Trojans' head coach Wendy Lee said. "What we can learn from this game is that we have to be able to attack different types of teams and make adjustments as the game goes and still be who we are."

Joneiqua Gary drained six 3-pointers and led Mount Olive with 20 points. Tamara Nesmith contributed 16 points and 10 rebounds. Jasmine McDonald added 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Morgan Midkiff finished with 17 points for the Crusaders.

The Trojans demonstrated offensive patience early while moving the ball effectively. Belmont Abbey was forced to settle for jump shots while struggling to get to the rim.

Alyssa Luebs' jump shot gave Mount Olive an early 10-4 lead. The margin grew to as large as 21-9 on McDonald's free throws 13 minutes into the opening half.

The Crusaders shot just 37 percent from the field in the first half and trailed 31-23 at the break. The Trojans (12-3 overall, 8-3 CC) held a 23-9 advantage on the boards in the opening 20 minutes and were led by Gary's nine points.

Belmont Abbey (7-8, 5-5) increased its defensive intensity in the second half and began crowding passing lanes and harassing ball handlers.

Mount Olive turnovers led to transition opportunities for Belmont Abbey. McKenzie Owen's jump shot pulled the Crusaders to within 39-35. Owen's free throws with fewer than 12 minutes to play tied the game at 43-43.

"They are a very good defensive team," Lee said. "They did get out in the passing lanes more and that's why they made their run. We were a little bit careless. I don't think we ever got comfortable because of their defense and the whole time we were playing their game."

Midkiff's layup gave Belmont Abbey the lead at 45-43. It was the Crusaders' first lead since they led 2-0 early in the first half.

Gary connected on a pair of 3-pointers and Nesmith added an offensive putback as the Trojans surged back in front 53-48.

"I didn't ever feel at one point as if we were going to lose the game," Gary said. "I think that gave my teammates confidence that we had the game."

Belmont Abbey cut the deficit to 56-53 before Gary's jump shot with fewer than 21/2 minutes to play extended the lead to 58-53.

Mount Olive made five of seven free throws in the final two minutes to seal the victory. The Trojans finished with a 42-25 edge in rebounding.