MARS HILL, N.C. -- A trio of Crusaders topped double figures in the 2016-17 Belmont Abbey Men's Basketball opener, but it was not enough in a 88-77 setback to host Mars Hill in the Tipoff Classic. Deion Lane tallied 20 points while Drexler Clark and Jacob Wilson added 19 and 16 points, respectively.
Troy Henderson grabbed a team-best eight rebounds, while Clark dished out seven assists, while also capturing six boards, all on the defensive end. Vernon Jackson led all scorers with 25 points for Mars Hill.
The Crusaders trailed by only two at the half, 39-37, hitting just 40.0 percent from the field. The biggest lead for either team in the period was seven when Lions opened a 38-31 lead with just over two-and-a-half minutes remaining. However, Belmont Abbey scored back-to-back layups and ended the half on a 6-1 to close the gap to within two.
The second half started with the Crusaders cutting the lead to one at 41-40 and 43-42, but Mars Hill used seven straight points to lead 50-42, then answered a Wilson jumper with five in row to top double figures for the first time, 55-44
Belmont Abbey cut the gap to eight on several occasions, but each time the Lions responded. The Crusaders converted 52.0 percent from the field after intermission, finishing the contest at 45.0 percent.
The Tipoff Classic continues tomorrow when the Crusaders face Wingate at 8 p.m. in Mars Hill.