Mike Moore led the No. 9 University of Mount Olive with 18 points but the Trojans were unable to survive a late run by Tarleton State University and Mount Olive fell 77-59 in the opening round of the 2015 NCAA DII Elite Eight in Evansville, Ind. Tarleton State went on an 11-0 run midway the second period.
Mount Olive (31-4) got on the board first with a three-pointer from JaQuan Blount. The Trojans started off hot as they went on to score the first seven points of the game. Damion Clemons stopped the run as he tipped-in the first points for Tarleton (31-3) at the 16:53 mark.
The Trojans continued to push the lead out to 14-6 with a jumper by Jordan McCain. Mo Lee drained a three-pointer for the Texans with 12:24 left to move the deficit to five. Mike Moore went on to score five unanswered point and gave Mount Olive its first double digit lead.
Michael Hardge converted a three-point play on the next possession and Mount Olive still had the lead 19-12. DeShawn Riddick hit a three to pull the Texans closer. Both squads exchanged five points apiece before Hardge knocked down two free throws to bring the Trojan lead down to 24-21 with 6:44 remaining in the first period.
A three-pointer by Nosa Ebomwonyi took the Mount Olive lead down to two, 26-24 with 5:45 left in the first period. Ebomwonyi hit another long range jumper to 29-27 with 4:30. Riddick got a reverse lay-up to drop and tied the game for the first time at 29 with 2:57. Hardge gave Tarleton its first lead of the game, 30-29, as he split a pair of free throws with 1:58 left before the half.
Tarleton State hit three free throws late and moved out 33-29. The Trojans held for the last shot and Dontrell Brite hit the bottom of the net to give Mount Olive the momentum headed into the half.
The second half started with a 5-0 run by the Texans as they jumped ahead 38-31. After a Trojan timeout, Moore stopped the momentum with a three with 19:02. Moore connected on another beyond the arch shot and Mount Olive was down 39-37 with 17:57. Hargrove hit a reverse lay-up to tie the game just 46 seconds later.
Lee scored four unanswered point to push Tarleton up 43-39. Hargrove stopped a short run by the Texans with a made free throw at the 15:38 mark and the Trojans trailed 45-40. Blount got the deficit down to 48-44 with a made jumper. Moore dropped in a lay-up with 12:20 left to bring the score to 51-46. Moore got the lead down to three after two free throws, but the Texans took it up to 55-49 with 10:19.
A three-pointer by Lee at the 9:34 mark started an 11-0 run for Tarleton to give the Texans a 66-51 lead with 7:25 left in the second period. Hargrove stopped the run with a free throw with 7:10.
Mount Olive put up four points in two straight possessions and the deficit became 70-55 with under five minutes to play. Hargrove grabbed an offensive board with 4:10 and got the put back to fall as the Trojans trailed 71-57.
Tarleton's lead never fell below 13 for the final minutes of the game and the Trojans fell in the opening round of the Elite Eight.
Head Coach Joey Higginbotham spoke on the team this year and what they have been able to acomplish.
"It wasn't our night but that doesn't take away from how proud I am of this group of guys what they've done for our program and our school and the community. I could not be more proud as a coach because they fight tooth and nail but we didn't give up we never stopped fighting".
"This team is the most successful group in program history and for the returners I hope it will be motivation to come back next year and it is tough to do.
It's a sad day for our two senoirs because it's the last time they will put on that uniform. They have meant so much to me as a person, to our school, to our community and they are everything that we are about and that Division II is about and they have represented that. It's a sad day because I do not get to go out to practice tomorrow but I am going to be their friend forever".
Senior Kendall Hargrove spoke about this team.
"The team we were all together all season and when things were going wrong we all knew before that something was wrong and we fixed it on the court. I feel that our two captains Dontrell Brite and JaQuan Blount led the team all year and we all fed off them.
Mount Olive finishes the season with the best record in program history and its second Elite Eight appearance in ten years. Moore led all scorers with 18 points. Hargrove finished with 15 points and 10 boards for a double-double. Blount added 13 points and five boards.