02/27/13 — Trojan men triumph on senior night

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Trojan men triumph on senior night

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 27, 2013 1:47 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Senior night games can be nightmarish, especially when an opponent is experiencing an uncharacteristic tough season and is searching for anything positive to happen.

And when the foe is a long-time nemesis that's been a constant thorn in your side, the concern grows.

Pfeiffer University started strong out of the gate, scoring eight of the first 10 points against Mount Olive College on Tuesday evening. But the Trojans regrouped at halftime and used a dominating run to put away the Falcons, 69-53, in a Conference Carolinas men's basketball contest that wasn't as close as the final score indicates.

Mount Olive (14-11 overall, 11-8 CC) is tied with Queens for fifth place in conference play -- one game behind Belmont Abbey and a half-game ahead of Erskine with one regular-season game remaining. The Trojans hold two tie-breaking advantages against Belmont Abbey and Queens.

"Pfeiffer was coming off a big win at Coker," MOC head coach Joey Higginbotham said. "These games make me more nervous than anything because these teams have nothing to lose."

The Trojans swept the regular-season series for the second time in the past four years. The Falcons hold a 38-22 edge overall since 1989 when the two rivals played in the old NAIA Carolinas Intercollegiate Athletics Conference.

Pfeiffer (4-22, 2-17) led 12-6 when Mahamed Ibrahim, one of five MOC seniors, blocked a shot and then dunked on the other end. The play charged the slow-starting Trojans and started a 10-2 run.

Jordan McCain's tip-in and two free throws each from Ewon Wright and Kendall Hargrove knotted the contest at 14-all with 10:56 remaining in the opening half. Dory Hines' steal and layup gave the Trojans a 16-14 advantage they wouldn't relinquish the rest of the night.

The Falcons hung around until Wright buried consecutive 3-pointers within a 30-second span to make it 31-22. MOC led 38-26 at intermission.

"At halftime, we talked about letting our fundamental defensive pressure create steals and turnovers (instead of) where we're trying to make a steal on the ball or trying to gamble, but making stupid fouls away from the basket," Higginbotham said. "I thought we did a good job. The first three possessions we had good pressure and they turned the ball over against it. That's the way we've got to guard."

The three miscues helped ignite a 10-0 run to start the second half and silenced any further hopes the Falcons had of pulling off a late-season surprise.

MOC's lead swelled to as many as 23 points before both coaches worked to give their reserves playing time. Higginbotham was pleased that his starters got some rest heading into Friday's regular-season finale at archrival Barton.

The victory marked the final regular-season home outings for Ibrahim, Jordan Gaffney, Deshaune Green, Caleb Henderson and Darrell Patterson. Freshman Dontrell Brite pumped in 21 for the Trojans.