Jaquan Blount scored 18 of his 20 points in the first half to help University of Mount Olive build a double-digit lead and Dominique Reed scored 14 of his team-high 22 points in the second half to help thwart a series of Young Harris College rallies as the nationally sixth-ranked Trojans held off the Mountain Lions 80-66 in day two of the Barton College 45-Second Classic Saturday at Wilson, N.C. The win extends the Trojans' regular season winning streak to 19.
Mount Olive (2-0) led by 12 at halftime and Dontrell Brite answered a Young Harris basket with a three-pointer to extend the Trojans' lead to 44-31 with 18:26 left in the second half. Young Harris (0-2) pulled within 46-38 on a three-pointer by C.J. Wilson. The Mountain Lions never got any closer than eight points the rest of the way, but the Trojans were never able to pull away until the last eight minutes.
Mount Olive's lead was still in single digits at 53-44 with 13:21 left to play and the Trojans went nearly four minutes without a field goal, but Young Harris was limited to two free throws during the span and was unable to cut into the margin.
Reed and Brite scored four points apiece during a 10-2 run and Mount Olive's lead grew to 65-48 with 7:36 remaining. The margin never again fell below 14 points and the Trojans took their biggest lead at 78-57 after a Mike Moore three-pointer with 2:29 left.
Blount agreed that despite the margin, the Trojans were in a battle from start to finish.
"This was a battle today and every game is going to be a battle," said Blount, a senior from Farmville, N.C. "We just need to come out and play hard every game."
After spotting Young Harris the first basket of the game, Blount's three-pointer from the left corner triggered a 12-0 Mount Olive run and gave the Trojans their first double-digit lead of the contest. Mount Olive built the lead to 19-6 with 14:53 left in the first half after Jamaal Martin's offensive rebound led to a three-pointer by Brite at the top of the key. The Trojans would be held to just one field goal over the next six minutes, but the margin never fell below eight points during the stretch.
Blount re-ignited Mount Olive's offense with driving layups on three consecutive possessions and a one-handed putback from five feet out as the Trojans regained their 13-point advantage at 33-20 with 4:40 remaining. Young Harris came back with a three-pointer from the top of the key by Ben Waterhouse – the Mountain Lions' third three-point attempt of the possession – but Mount Olive answered when Blount found Reed in the lane for an uncontested dunk.
Moore started and finished a sequence that gave the Trojans their biggest lead of the half. Moore recovered a loose ball and sent a pass across midcourt to Blount while on the floor. Blount's three-point attempt was off the mark and the ball was headed out of bounds, but Brite skied for the rebound and while still in the air, passed to Moore, who drove the lane for a layup to extend Mount Olive's lead to 39-25 with 2:11 remaining.
Another three-pointer by Waterhouse helped Young Harris pull within 10, but John Wieland sank a pair of free throws with 12.8 seconds left to give Mount Olive a 41-29 halftime lead.
Brite finished with 15 points, while Moore added 13 points and seven rebounds. Blount flirted with a triple-double with seven rebounds and seven assists. Reed was 10-for-14 from the field and shared game-high honors with eight rebounds.
Wilson led all scorers with 28 points for Young Harris.
Prior to the start of the second game between tournament host Barton College and USC Aiken, a moment of silence was observed for the victims of Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris, France.
Mount Olive plays host to the 50th Annual Pickle Classic next weekend, but Brite says the team isn't thinking that far ahead.
"We have a game coming up this week and that's where our focus is," said Brite, a senior from Chesapeake, Va., and last year's Conference Carolinas Men's Basketball Player of the Year. "The only thing we think about is our next game."
Mount Olive returns to action Tuesday as the Trojans travel to Wingate, N.C., to take on Wingate University in a non-conference match-up. Mount Olive has won each of the last three meetings between the two teams, including an 81-80 victory two years ago in the Trojans' last visit to Wingate. Tip-off is 7 p.m.