11/23/13 — MOC men fall to VSU

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MOC men fall to VSU

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 23, 2013 11:43 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Mount Olive College worked its way into position to capture its 23rd Pickle Classic championship Saturday evening.

Virginia State made sure it didn't happen.

Lamar Kearse sank two free throws with 4.3 seconds left to lift the visiting Trojans to a 55-51 victory before a standing-room-only Homecoming crowd at Kornegay Arena. It was Virginia State's first-ever Classic crown.

The loss snapped MOC's four-game win streak.

"We did have our chances," Mount Olive head coach Joey Higginbotham said. "As bad as we played and were only down five at half, I thought we battled with the effort."

Mount Olive senior guard Dory Hines logged his 500th career assist on John Wieland's jumper early in the opening half. The Kinston native is just the second player in program history to achieve the feat along with Derek Staton, who currently holds the school's career record with 524.

But the host Trojans (4-2 overall) struggled to get into an offensive rhythm and committed more turnovers (9) than made field goals (8) in the first 20 minutes of action.

Virginia State (4-1) held an eight-point lead on three occasions and led by five at the break.

"We've got make some shots," Higginbotham said.

Dominique Reed gave the host Trojans their second lead of the game, 33-32, on an offensive putback early in the second half. Virginia State (4-1 overall) answered with an 8-0 run and maintained a two-possession advantage over the next seven-plus minutes.

MOC stayed within striking distance and knotted the contest at 49-49 on Mike Moore's free throw. Reed, one of three sophomores in the starting lineup, converted the back end of a two-shot foul to put MOC in front 50-49, with 6:03 to go.

The small advantage didn't last.

Higginbotham's squad managed just one point the rest of the way -- a single free by Jordan McCain with 41.7 seconds on the clock. Kearse hit two jumpers during that stretch and VSU clung to a 53-51 lead.

There was still time to get one final shot, but MOC gave up an offensive rebound that led to Kearse's game-sealing free throws. Kearse emerged the lone double-figure scorer with 11 points for Virginia State, which out-rebounded MOC 40-31.

"We're getting killed on the glass, three games in a row now that we've been out-rebounded," Higginbotham said. "We looked to have maybe four or five seconds on the clock to get something, and we give it up on a rebound and a foul. I tip my hat to Virginia State, they played (and) executed their game plan great."

All-Classic team selections Reed and Kendall Hargrove each just missed a double-double. Reed provided 14 points and nine rebounds. Hargrove supplied nine points and a team-best 10 rebounds.

McCain contributed 11 points off the bench.