University of Mount Olive rallied from a 10-point first-quarter deficit and built a six-point lead in the third quarter, but Belmont Abbey College came back to hand the Trojans their first conference loss 70-63 in Conference Carolinas women's basketball Saturday at Belmont, N.C. Aerial Johnson posted her fourth double-double of the season for the Trojans with game highs of 20 points and 11 rebounds.
Mount Olive (5-5 overall, 3-1 Conference Carolinas) led by three at halftime and took its biggest lead at 41-35 after Johnson's layup with 6:31 remaining in the third quarter. Johnson, who was held to six points in the first half, scored Mount Olive's first nine points after halftime, but the Trojans managed only two free throws the remainder of the third period as Belmont Abbey (4-5, 3-1) rallied to lead 50-47 after three periods.
Daria Simmons opened the fourth quarter with a basket for Mount Olive to make it a one-point game, but that was as close as the Trojans would get. The Crusaders broke the game open with an 11-3 run and then withstood a late UMO rally. Kiara Jones' basket with 1:53 remaining capped a 6-0 run and pulled Mount Olive within 65-61. After a Belmont Abbey free throw, Anamaria Zjacic's layup made it a one-possession game at 66-63 with 20 seconds left.
Belmont Abbey's Briana Grier hit a pair of free throws and Alexius Hampton hit a layup off a Trojan turnover to ice the game.
Mount Olive spotted Belmont Abbey the first six points of the game and trailed 18-8 before Ni'Ya Styles hit a pair of three-pointers during a 10-0 Trojan run to tie the game. The Crusaders got a last-second basket to go back on top 20-18 at the end of one quarter, but Zjacic tied the game with a layup eight seconds into the second quarter and finished her own steal on Belmont Abbey's next possession with a layup to give the Trojans their first lead at 22-20.
Shy'lia Buie followed with a three-pointer, but a three-pointer by Hampton triggered a 7-0 run to give Belmont Abbey a 27-25 advantage with exactly seven minutes left before halftime. Mount Olive rallied again as Zjacic's basket with 3:30 remaining broke a 29-29 tie. The two teams exchanged four-point runs before Styles' three-pointer with 13 seconds left put Mount Olive on top 36-33 at the half.
Styles scored all of her 14 points in the first half, while Zjacic went 6-for-7 from the field and scored 10 of her 12 points in the first two periods. She also recorded a game-high four steals.
Hampton led Belmont Abbey with 18 points, while Grier nearly tallied a triple-double with 12 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
Mount Olive is idle for the next two weeks for Christmas Break. The Trojans resume action January 2 at Emmanuel College in a Conference Carolinas match-up.