By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on February 1, 2013 1:47 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- Mount Olive College has had a pair of opportunities to knock off a Conference Carolinas co-leader during its past two games.
The Trojans have come up empty twice.
Mount Olive cut a 13-point first-half deficit to one point but could never close the gap in 54-50 loss to Conference Carolinas women's basketball archrival Barton inside Kornegay Arena on Thursday evening.
Kirksten Mitchell led the Trojans with 15 points and seven rebounds. Jasmine McDonald contributed 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Shante Neal and Nyesha Willie each scored 13 points for the Bulldogs.
Barton started hot offensively while Mount Olive had difficulty settling into a rhythm against the Bulldogs' full-court press and ball pressure. Turnovers by the Trojans and 3-pointers from Willie and Ashley Thornton helped fuel Barton's opening 20-7 run.
Mount Olive (12-5 overall, 8-5 CC) clamped down on defense and attacked the rim on offense. The Trojans closed the half on a 10-1 run and trailed 32-29 at the break.
The Bulldogs forced 11 Trojans' turnovers in the opening 20 minutes while Mount Olive held a 23-21 edge on the glass. Mitchell paced the Trojans with 11 first-half points.
"I thought we were playing with a lot of effort and a lot of energy," Mount Olive head coach Wendy Lee said. "I thought we played with a lot of energy in the second half, too. I just didn't think we could get any really good looks at the basket and I attribute that to Barton's defense."
Barton (13-4, 12-1) continued to play aggressive defense throughout the second half and forced the Trojans to use the majority of the shot clock on numerous possessions. Mount Olive pulled to within 32-31 early in the second half and stayed within striking distance most of the final 20 minutes.
The Trojans trailed 46-42 with three minutes to play, but committed three costly turnovers and made just one field goal during that stretch. The Trojans finished with 24 turnovers and shot just 37.5 percent from the floor in the second half.
"We didn't capitalize down the stretch," Lee said. "I thought their pressure bothered us and the difference in the game was the turnovers that they forced with their pressure and the offensive boards that they got.
"I hope we're not discouraged. I think we're playing good teams and not taking care of the ball down the stretch and getting the block outs we need. Those are things I think we can get better at and fix."
Mount Olive travels to North Greenville on Saturday. The Trojan women won the previous meeting 100-63 last December at Kornegay Arena.
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