MOUNT OLIVE, N.C. – Brandon Streeter scored 22 points and pulled down five of his game-high 13 rebounds in the final four minutes as Mount Olive withstood second half rally and extended its winning streak to seven with a 93-85 victory over Belmont Abbey in Conference Carolinas men’s basketball Monday afternoon at Kornegay Arena. Kendrick Easley scored a team-high 23 points and Josh Brown added 19 points off the bench as the Trojans held on after seeing a 21-point first half lead trimmed down to three.
Mount Olive celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day by reaching the 90-point mark for the fourth consecutive game in the special Monday matinee. The win assures Mount Olive of being in sole possession of first place in the conference standings or in a tie for first with Barton when the Trojans play host to the defending national champions Thursday.
Richard Barbee scored 24 of his game-high 33 points in the second half for Belmont Abbey, shooting 13-of-17 from the field and 7-for-8 from the free throw line.
Streeter scored eight of Mount Olive’s (12-3 overall, 8-1 Conference Carolinas) first 10 points and his basket with 16:47 left in the first half put the Trojans ahead to stay. Easley hit a three-pointer and Lydell Walker drove the baseline for dunk as Mount Olive built the lead to 24-15 with 10:04 remaining.
Belmont Abbey (8-8, 7-3) pulled within two as Barbee scored seven points during a 9-0 run to cut the margin to 24-22 with 7:40 remaining. Brown’s 16-footer – 75 seconds after entering the game for the first time – stopped the Crusaders’ scoring run and triggered a Trojan run of 13 unanswered points. Brown added a pair of three-pointers and Craig Hayes’ basket with 1:53 left capped a 23-4 run and gave Mount Olive its biggest lead at 47-26.
Mount Olive had a chance to add to a 20-point lead on its final possession of the first half, but Deonte Murphy stole a perimeter pass and hit a layup with one second left to pull Belmont Abbey within 52-34 at halftime.
Easley (11 points), Brown (11 points) and Streeter (10 points) were all in double figures by intermission. Mount Olive committed only six turnovers in the first half, but Belmont Abbey forced 15 second-half turnovers to get back in the game.
Belmont Abbey cut Mount Olive’s lead down to 13 points in the first four minutes of the second half, but Easley’s fade-away three-pointer from the top of the key gave the Trojans a 63-47 advantage with 16:04 remaining. Jonathan Jackson answered with his second three-pointer of the second half and the Crusaders eventually pulled within single digits after Barbee and Jackson converted steals into fastbreak layups to make the score 65-56 with 13:20 left to play.
Mount Olive’s lead was cut down to seven before Easley hit another three-pointer and added a pair of free throws after a steal by Streeter to make the score 72-60 with 11:15 remaining. Belmont Abbey pulled within nine, but Brown extended the margin to double digits again with his fourth three-pointer.
The Trojans led 80-70 with Jackson ignited a 9-2 Belmont Abbey run with his fourth three-pointer. Barbee’s basket with 5:29 left made it a five-point game and his steal and uncontested layup on Mount Olive’s next possession pulled the Crusaders within 82-79.
Streeter went 1-for-2 on two consecutive trips to the free throw line, then put home a slam dunk after Montel Jones pulled down an offensive rebound on a missed three-point attempt. Jones got the rebound on a Belmont Abbey missed shot and Streeter’s putback extended the Trojans’ lead to 88-79 with 2:50 remaining.
Barbee answered with a layup to cut Mount Olive’s lead back to seven, but that would be as close as Belmont Abbey would get. Streeter hit a pair of free throws with 31 seconds left and Justin Melton added a pair of free throws with 17 seconds remaining to build the lead back to double figures.
Streeter finished 7-for-11 from the field and 8-for-12 from the line. He also had three blocked shots, as did Melton. Easley and Brown were both 4-for-6 from three-point range as Mount Olive shot 53.3 percent (8-for-15) from beyond the arc. The Trojans were 55.9 percent (33-for-59) from the field overall, marking the fifth game in a row shooting over 50 percent. Melton finished with eight points and six assists, while Hayes added eight points on 4-for-5 shooting.
Jackson scored 20 points for Belmont Abbey, while Chad Patus added 10 points. Murphy finished with nine points, eight assists and five steals for the Crusaders.
Monday’s contest was the first of three home games in six days for Mount Olive. The Trojans play host to Barton in a Conference Carolinas match-up Thursday at Kornegay Arena. Both of last year’s regular season meetings went to overtime and the two teams have faced in each other in the conference tournament championship game in each of the last two years. Tip-off is 7:30 p.m.
Mount Olive wraps up the week Saturday afternoon against Queens. Belmont Abbey plays host to North Greenville Wednesday in non-conference action.