Kendrick Easley scored 21 points and hit a tie-breaking free throw with 10 seconds left to lead No. 22 Mount Olive to a 60-59 victory over Tusculum in non-conference men's basketball Wednesday at Greeneville, Tenn. Brandon Streeter added a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds as the Trojans rallied from a seven-point second half deficit.
Mount Olive (6-3) led by as many six points in the first half after Easley's three-pointer gave the Trojans a 13-7 lead with 14:54 left in the first half. Tusculum (5-6) scored seven unanswered points to take its first lead of the game, but Mount Olive came back with an 8-2 run as Aking Elting's basket with 8:24 remaining gave the Trojans a 21-16 lead.
Tusculum got as close as three points before Easley's three-pointer capped another Trojan run and gave Mount Olive its biggest lead of the half at 26-19 with 5:33 left before intermission. Tusculum then held Mount Olive without a field goal for nearly five minutes as Darren Hobbs' layup with 1:42 remaining put the Pioneers back on top 29-28.
After an Easley free throw tied the game, Streeter and Tusculum's Lavonti Jeter exchanged baskets in the final 48 seconds as the two teams went into the locker room tied 31-31. Easley had 11 points at halftime for the Trojans.
The second half began as a battle of free throws before Jordan Lear's three-pointer gave Tusculum a five-point lead. Easley answered with a three-pointer, but Kyle Moore's three-pointer with 15:03 remaining gave the Pioneers a 43-36 lead, their biggest of the game.
After Montel Jones' three-pointer brought the Trojans within a field goal, Tusculum extended its lead to as many as six points. The Trojans got as close as three points before Jeter's fastbreak layup gave the Pioneers a 55-50 lead with 4:25 remaining.
Tusculum had a chance to build the lead back to seven points on its next possession on a fastbreak opportunity, but Mike Holloman blocked a shot from behind and the ball went out of bounds off of Tusculum. Justin Melton followed with a three-pointer from the left corner to pull the Trojans within 55-53 with 3:49 remaining.
Tusculum missed two of its next three free throw attempts, including the front end of a 1-and-1. Streeter hit a layup to pull the Trojans within one, pulled down a defensive rebound on a missed layup, then tipped in a missed shot to give Mount Olive its first lead of the second half at 57-56 with 2:13 left to play. Streeter had four points and three rebounds in a span of 68 seconds.
Mount Olive stopped Tusculum on its next two possessions on a blocked shot by Lydell Walker and a steal by Holloman. Easley hit a layup with 52 seconds left to extend the Trojans' lead to 59-56. Kyle Moore then hit a three-pointer with 33 seconds left to tie the game 59-59.
After a Tusculum timeout, Easley drove to the basket and drew a foul. Easley, who was 6-for-7 from the line up to that point, hit the first free throw, but missed the second. Tusculum missed a three-pointer at the buzzer as the Trojans held on to snap a two-game losing skid.
Mount Olive shot 75.0 percent (12-for-16) from the line and outrebounded Tusculum 39-33. Both teams were held to 38 percent shooting from the field. Holloman led the Trojans defensively with three steals and three blocked shots.
Moore shared game-high honors with 21 points for Tusculum. Lear added 15 points and Jeter finished with 14 points.
Mount Olive resumes Conference Carolinas play Saturday as the Trojans travel to Anderson, S.C., to take on Anderson. Mount Olive is a game out of first place in the conference standings with a 2-1 mark. Tip-off is 4 p.m.