Ni'ya Styles scored 19 of her career-high 26 points in the first half, but it was her free throw with 7.7 seconds left in the game that sealed the win as University of Mount Olive held off Barton College 70-66 in Conference Carolinas women's basketball Tuesday at Kornegay Arena. With the win, Mount Olive's seventh in a row, the Trojans clinch a home game Monday in the first round of the 2016 Conference Carolinas Women's Basketball Tournament.
Mount Olive (17-10 overall, 15-6 Conference Carolinas) held a 10-point halftime lead, but Barton (14-14, 12-9) used three-pointers by Tatyana Jackson, Alex Kimble and Karimah Dean to fuel a 13-0 run to put the Bulldogs on top 40-38 with 5:31 left in the third quarter. Barton forced three Trojan turnovers in 95 seconds during the run.
Shy'lia Buie's three-point play with 2:41 left in the quarter broke a 42-42 tie and put Mount Olive ahead to stay, but the Trojans could not pull away from the Bulldogs. Mount Olive maintained a two-possession lead throughout most of the fourth quarter, taking its biggest lead at 67-59 with 1:30 remaining after back-to-back 10-foot jumpers in the paint by Arieal Johnson off of inbound passes by Buie.
The Trojans had a chance to build the lead back to double digits, but Barton capitalized on turnovers on consecutive possessions as Kianna Wynn's basket with 47 seconds left pulled the Bulldogs with 67-63. After Buie sank a pair of free throws with 21 seconds left, Kimble rattled in a three-pointer from the left corner with 16 seconds remaining to make it a one-possession game at 69-66.
Styles brought the ball up the left sideline and was fouled just as she reached midcourt with 7.7 seconds left. She missed the first attempt, but drained the second free throw to make it a two-possession game. A Bulldog three-point attempt was off the mark and Johnson pulled down the rebound as time expired.
In the first half, Mount Olive spotted Barton a 6-0 lead on three-pointers by Kimble and Jackson. Styles got the Trojans on the scoreboard three minutes into the contest with the first of her five first-half three-pointers.
The Trojans trailed by as many as seven points, but back-to-back putbacks by Johnson gave Mount Olive its first lead at 19-18 with 7:54 left in the second quarter. Styles added three-pointers on consecutive possessions and Johnson's short jumper with 3:05 remaining capped a 16-2 run and extended the margin to double figures for the first time at 31-20.
Barton closed the gap to seven after Chanel Shannon's over-top-pass found Wynn for a layup with 13 seconds remaining. Styles answered with another three-pointer with three seconds left to push the Trojans' lead back to double digits at 34-24 at halftime.
Johnson finished with 18 points, nine rebounds and five blocked shots for the Trojans. Buie dished out a game-high six assists, while Anamaria Zjacic added five assists.
Kimble led Barton with 19 points and a game-high four steals. Wynn and Jackson added 14 points apiece for the Bulldogs. Wynn also shared game-high honors with nine rebounds.
Mount Olive will be the No. 2, 3 or 4 seed in the conference tournament. The Trojans have reached the championship game of the tournament in each of the last three years, winning the championship in 2013. Last year, Mount Olive became the first No. 7 seed in conference history to advance to the title game.
Mount Olive concludes regular season play Friday as the Trojans play host to Erskine College in Conference Carolinas action. The Trojans won 71-55 at Erskine February 13. Tip-off is 5:30 p.m. at Kornegay Arena.
Trojans seniors Shy'lia Buie and Anamaria Zjacic, along with senior team manager Austin Andrews, will be recognized during Senior Night ceremonies prior to tip-off.