University of Mount Olive scored the first 12 points of the game, but Catawba used a run late in the second half to take the lead for good and hand the Trojans a 75-65 loss in the opening day of the SAC/Conference Carolinas Women's Basketball Challenge Friday at Charlotte, N.C. Freshman Ni'ya Styles scored 21 points in her first regular season game for the Trojans, while Gabby Griffin added career highs of 16 points and nine rebounds. Ty Wallace posted a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Mount Olive (0-1) used an 8-0 run to rally from a six-point deficit as Styles hit a three-pointer and a fastbreak layup off of a steal. Ariel Johnson's jumper gave the Trojans a 55-53 lead with 9:32 left in the contest. After Catawba regained the lead, Griffin had an offensive putback of her own miss to tie the game 57-57 with 7:38 remaining.
Catawba (1-0) used Janna Dixon's jumper on its next possession to go back on the top and the Indians led the rest of the way. Bri Johnson capped the 11-2 run with a pair of free throws with 4:08 left to give the Indians a 68-59 advantage. The Trojans never got any closer than five points down the stretch.
Griffin scored seven straight points and Tomarrah Harris hit a three-pointer with 15:48 left in the first half to give Mount Olive a 12-0 lead. Griffin answered a pair of Catawba free throws with a three-pointer to give the Trojans a 15-2 advantage, their biggest lead of the game. Mount Olive held Catawba without a field goal until Chloe Bully converted a fastbreak layup more than six minutes into the contest.
Catawba chipped away at Mount Olive's lead and Bully hit a pair of free throws for the Indians to tie the game 28-28 with 3:23 left before halftime. Ansia Dial's layup with 58 seconds left broke a 32-32 tie and Styles added a pair of field goals to cap a 6-0 run. Catawba cut the margin in half on Serena Brown's three pointer with three seconds left to pull the Indians within 38-35 at the break.
Wallace's basket on Mount Olive's first possession of the second half extended the lead to five, but Bully's steal and layup with 15:59 remaining broke a 43-43 tie and gave Catawba its first lead of the contest. The game saw four more ties before Catawba made its game-breaking run.
Styles, Griffin and Wallace combined for 20 of Mount Olive's 27 field goals. The Trojans were 4-of-7 from the free throw line, compared to 20-of-39 for Catawba.
Bully led all scorers with 22 points for the Indians.
Mount Olive wraps up tournament play Saturday afternoon as the Trojans take on host Queens. The meeting is the first between the two teams since Queens left Conference Carolinas after the 2012-13 season. Tip-off is 4 p.m.