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March 3, 2024 10:21 pm

Mount Olive falls to Belmont Abbey, 96-83, in men’s basketball

MOUNT OLIVE — Despite a career-high 23 points by sophomore forward Aaron Murphy on Saturday afternoon, the University of Mount Olive men’s basketball team suffered a 96-83 loss versus Belmont Abbey in Conference Carolinas action at Kornegay Arena.

With the loss, the Trojans fall to 1-10 this season behind a 0-2 mark in league play. In the series, Belmont Abbey has won the last four meetings, including a quarterfinal victory over UMO in last season’s conference tournament. Meanwhile, the Crusaders improve to 3-7 overall with a 2-1 record in conference action.

Murphy scored a team-high 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting while converting five-of-six from the free-throw line. He also tallied five rebounds and two assists in 28 minutes off the bench. In 11 games played, Murphy is averaging 14.0 points per game while shooting 57.4 percent from the floor.

Sophomore Trey Nelson finished with 14 points on five-of-nine shots with a trio of three-pointers while dishing out six assists in 35 minutes. Freshman Josiah Watkins produced 13 points on 5-of-11 attempts with four rebounds, two assists, and one steal in 27 minutes. Sophomore Shane Peterson totaled nine points and seven rebounds, while teammate Ryan Roberts delivered nine points and three steals.

The Crusaders established an early 12-8 advantage on five-of-eight attempts in the initial five-plus minutes of the game. Mount Olive scored six of the following eight points to tie the contest at 14-14 with 12:22 remaining before taking a 22-18 lead behind three-pointers by Nelson and Peterson. Belmont Abbey countered with a 14-4 rally to reclaim a 32-26 advantage with 5:38 left before eventually stretching the lead to 37-30. In the final 2:21, the Trojans answered by scoring seven of the final nine points to trail 39-37 at the break.

In the second half, freshman Kahlif Barnes tied the game on a layup in the opening minutes, but the Crusaders responded with a 12-4 run to extend the lead to 51-43 with 16:07 remaining. UMO countered with four unanswered points before Belmont Abbey registered a 20-6 run on 8-of-11 shooting over the next six-plus minutes to take a significant 71-53 lead. The teams exchanged points over the next five minutes, as the Crusaders held their largest lead of the game at 21 points, 84-63. Mount Olive rallied back with a 12-2 run to cut the deficit to 86-75 with 1:43 left, but Belmont Abbey held on to claim the 96-83 win.

UMO shot at a 47.5 clip (29-of-61) from the floor while going 16-of-20 (80.0 percent) from the free-throw line. Meanwhile, Belmont Abbey finished the game shooting 58.5 percent (38-of-65) and converted 13-of-18 (72.2 percent) from the charity stripe. The Crusaders held a 36-28 rebounding advantage with 50 points in the paint, while the Trojans registered 32 points off the bench.

Senior Mason Taylor matched a season-high with 29 points on 12-of-20 shooting with six rebounds, five assists, and three steals in 30 minutes. Jacori Owens scored 22 points on 11-of-12 attempts with seven rebounds, one assist, three blocks, and one steal in 29 minutes off the bench. Freshman Darius Kane finished with 11 points, four rebounds, and three steals in 24 minutes.

Mount Olive heads onto winter break before returning to the court on Saturday, Dec. 30, to host Wingate in non-conference play at Kornegay Arena, starting at 2 p.m.