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March 3, 2024 9:49 pm

Mount Olive men’s basketball team falls at No. 16 North Georgia

DAHLONEGA, Ga. – Facing a nationally-ranked opponent on Saturday afternoon, the Trojans battled in a 77-61 loss at No. 16 North Georgia in non-conference play.

With the loss, the University of Mount Olive men’s basketball team drops to 1-9 and has faced a pair of nationally ranked teams from the Peach Belt Conference (PBC) this year. In the series, the two sides met for the first time since 2010 with the Nighthawks holding a 2-1 edge in the matchup. Meanwhile, North Georgia improves to 8-1 this season behind a 3-0 record versus Conference Carolinas opponents.

Sophomore Ryan Roberts matched his career-high with 15 points on five-of-seven attempts and made four three-pointers while playing 20 minutes off the bench in his return to the lineup. Fellow sophomore Aaron Murphy finished with nine points, two rebounds, one assist, and one steal in 16 minutes after battling foul trouble. Sophomore Shane Peterson tallied eight points, three rebounds, and one assist in 34 minutes, while teammate Brent Randleman also totaled eight points with three rebounds, two assists, and two steals in 22 minutes off the bench.

In the first half, the Trojans grabbed an early 3-2 edge in the opening minute behind a three-pointer by sophomore Redford Dunton. North Georgia countered with an 11-2 rally over the next three-plus minutes to take a 13-5 advantage. The Trojans scored five of the following seven points to trim the deficit to 15-10 with 14:16 left, but the Nighthawks made a perfect four-of-four from the floor to stretch the lead to 25-15. With North Georgia holding a 33-18 advantage with 7:13 remaining, Roberts tallied five unanswered points to close the gap to 33-23 before the Nighthawks mounted an 11-4 run to take a 44-27 lead in the break.

Mount Olive rallied in the second half with a 6-0 run to cut the deficit to 44-26 with 17:16 remaining, but North Georgia responded with eight straight points to extend the lead to 54-33. UMO countered by converting four-of-four from the field, including a pair of threes by Roberts to close the gap to 54-43 with 12:36 left. Following a Nighthawk dunk with 9:37 remaining, the Trojans went on an 8-3 rally to cut the deficit to 65-53. The sides traded points over the final five-plus minutes, as North Georgia sealed the win, 77-61.

Mount Olive finished the contest shooting 23-of-63 (36.5 percent) from the floor while converting 29.6 percent (8-of-27) from three-point range. Meanwhile, North Georgia posted a .517 field goal percentage (31-of-60) and made 8-of-17 (42.1 percent) from beyond the arc. The Nighthawks finished with a 40-30 rebounding advantage while scoring 42 points in the paint. The Trojans totaled 39 points off the bench and 11 second-chance points.

Sophomore AJ White finished with a game-high 28 points on 9-of-13 shooting while converting six-of-nine from beyond the arc. He also added four rebounds, three assists, and one steal in 33 minutes. Senior Eric Jones tallied 14 points, seven rebounds, two assists, and four blocks in 23 minutes. Sophomore Cayden Charles registered a double-double with 10 points, 10 rebounds, two steals, and two blocks in 25 minutes.

The Trojans return to Conference Carolinas play on Saturday, Dec. 16, when they face Belmont Abbey at Kornegay Arena, starting at 3:00 p.m.