GAFFNEY, S.C. – Mars Hill's men's basketball team lost to Belmont Abbey 92-83 in the first round of the South Atlantic Conference/Conference Carolinas Challenge, Friday night at the Timken Center. It was the season opener for both teams.
Bennett Wilson led Mars Hill with 23 points followed by Vernon Jackson who scored 11 points and pulled down five rebounds. Justen Hartfield rounded out the double-digit scorers for the Lions with 10 points. The Lions shot 50% (33-66) from the floor, 25% (5-20) from three-point range and 66.7% (12-18) from the foul line. MHU scored 52 points in the paint, 47 points from their bench and 21 points off Crusader miscues.
DeQuan Abrom scored a game high 25 points to pace Belmont Abbey. Jacob Wilson added 18 points while Deion Lane recorded a double-double with 15 points and 14 rebounds. The Crusaders connected on 53.3% (32-60) of their shots from the floor, 46.7% (7-15) from behind the arc and 75% (21-28) at the free throw line. The Crusaders out rebounded the Lions, 40-28.
Mars Hill jumped out to a 6-0 lead after Hartfield hit a layup with 18:50 left in the first half. The Crusaders went on a 15-8 run to take their first lead of the game (15-14) when Abrom converted a pair of free throw attempts with 15:47 on the clock. Mars Hill answered, outscoring the Crusaders 9-4 over the next three minutes (12:40) to take a four-point advantage (23-19) after Nassyr Daniel scored inside. Unfortunately, Belmont Abbey outscored the Lions 14-4 during the next four minutes of play to lead by six points (33-27) after Jacob Wilson hit a three-pointer. The Crusaders would lead by as many as 10 points (42-32) with 3:05 left in the first frame before Mars Hill stormed back going on a 10-2 run to close out the first half of play trailing Belmont Abbey by just two points (44-42) at the intermission.
The Crusaders started the second half outscoring Mars Hill, 11-2, to extend their advantage to 11 points (55-44) with 16:41 left in the second period after Abrom tipped in an Aiden Richard miss. Once again the Lions answered with a 11-4 run of their own during the ensuing three minutes of play to trim their deficit to just four points (59-55) after Jalen Williams drained a pair of free throws. That would be as close as the Lions would get down the stretch. Belmont Abbey extended their lead to as many as 16 points (86-70) with 2:57 left in regulation when Jacob Wilson hit two shots at the charity stripe. The Lions continued to play hard as they outscored the Crusaders 11-5 during the last three minutes of play to make the final tally 92-83.
Mars Hill will face Limestone in the final round of the event on Saturday. Tip-off in the Timken Center is slated for 7:30 p.m.