Mount Olive grabbed an early 12-point lead, then nearly rallied from a 15-point second-half deficit before falling to USC Aiken 71-60 in non-conference men's basketball Saturday at Kornegay Arena. Dominique Reed led all scorers with 18 points for the Trojans, while Dontrell Brite added 16 points.
Mount Olive (5-3) went 0-for-15 from three-point range and 12-for-25 (48.0 percent) from the free throw line.
Mount Olive trailed 56-41 with 12:49 left in the contest before Brite hit a pair of free throws to start a Trojan comeback. Mike Moore found Reed inside for a layup, then followed with a jumper off his own.
Brite's layup cut the margin to single digits and Ewon Wright provided a spark off the bench to extend the rally. Wright hit a 10-foot baseline jumper and finished his own steal with a layup to cap a 13-2 run and pull Mount Olive within 58-54 with 6:54 remaining.
Reed's block out of bounds brought the Kornegay Arena crowd to its feet, but USC Aiken (7-2) used two offensive rebounds to keep its possession alive. DeVontae Wright hit a 12-foot jumper and Shane Porchea added a pair of free throws and a basket as the Pacers built the lead back 10 with 4:23 remaining.
Mount Olive never got any closer than seven the rest of the way.
In the first half, Reed's three-point play highlighted a run of 11 unanswered points as the Trojans led USC Aiken 17-5 with 14:47 remaining. USC Aiken got as close as seven before Moore's 10-foot jumper in the paint gave Mount Olive a 29-20 lead with 7:07 left.
USC Aiken used 6-foot-10 forward Alvin Brown to key a comeback as Brown converted a three-point play and put home a dunk off an alley-oop lob from Wright to pull the Pacers within 31-28 with 3:38 remaining. Wright's jumper with 1:28 left tied the game and another dunk by Brown gave the Pacers their first lead at 37-35 with 52.1 seconds left.
Wright hit a jumper just before the first-half buzzer and USC Aiken went into halftime with a 39-35 lead. Jesse Seilem's three-pointer three minutes into the second half gave USC Aiken its first double-digit lead at 49-39 and the Pacers led the remainder of the game.
Mount Olive managed only one field goal through the first 11-plus minutes of the second half.
Moore narrowly missed his first collegiate double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds for Mount Olive. Kendall Hargrove pulled down a game-high nine rebounds. Reed, who blocked five shots Wednesday against Pfeiffer, recorded four blocked shots Saturday.
Wright led USC Aiken with 15 points and five assists, while Brown added 13 points, seven rebounds and six blocked shots. The Pacers were 19-for-28 from the free throw line.
Mount Olive returns to action Sunday as the Trojans travel to Greenville, N.C., to face East Carolina. The contest is considered an exhibition game for Mount Olive and will not reflect on the Trojans' record or statistics. The game counts as a regular season contest for ECU.