Spartanburg, S.C. - USC Upstate plays its final game of the season Saturday night when the Spartans travel to DeLand, Fla., to take on Stetson at 7:00 p.m. in the Edmunds Center. Upstate will look to end the season with two straight wins following its 59-52 win at Florida Gulf Coast Thursday night. Upstate enters the game with a 6-22 overall record and a 6-13 mark in the A-Sun. The Spartans are ninth in the conference standings and a win against Stetson and a Kennesaw State loss would move the squad up to eighth in the league. Stetson enters the game with a 6-22 overall record and a 4-15 mark in the conference, having lost the last four games and 10 of the last 11. The winner of Saturday's game will take the lead in the series, which is tied at 2-2.
Fans not in attendance at the game can watch the action live online for a fee at www.ASun.tv. Fans can listen to the action live online for free at www.upstatespartans.com, the official Upstate Athletics Web site, while receiving live statistical updates at www.gohatters.com, the official Stetson Athletics Web site.
Looking Back At Florida Gulf Coast
After falling behind by eight in the first half, Upstate battled back with a 9-2 run to cut the deficit to one. It was a battle the rest of the game as neither team took a lead larger than four points the rest of the way until Upstate opened a five-point advantage with 23 seconds left and went on for the 59-52 victory Thursday night in Ft. Myers. In a game that saw 14 lead changes and nine ties, Upstate prevailed by getting a double-double from Nick Schneiders, forcing FGCU into 21 turnovers, and battling hard on the boards to the tune of 15 offensive rebounds. When Chalmers Rogers curled around a pick and nailed a 10-foot jumper on the right side of the lane to give the Spartans the lead with 9:06 to play, Upstate gained control of the game and never trailed again. Leading by one with 1:05 to play, Schneiders hit a jumper for Upstate and Josh Chavis and Ryan LeGates each hit a pair of free throws down the stretch to seal the win. Schneiders finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Stetson enters Saturday night's game against Upstate with a 6-22 overall record and a 4-15 mark in the A-Sun. The Hatters have dropped four in a row and 10 of their last 11.
Stetson opened the A-Sun season against Upstate in Spartanburg on Nov. 30, a full 89 days between the first meeting and the game Saturday. The Hatters took a 78-56 loss at the hands of the Spartans. They have claimed league wins over Florida Gulf Coast, ETSU, Mercer and North Florida, winning at home against FGCU and Mercer and on the road at ETSU and UNF.
Stetson claimed non-conference wins over Averett and Palm Beach Atlantic, while losing out of the A-Sun to Florida, Florida State, Charleston Southern, Louisville, Miami and Savannah State twice.
Stetson is 4-9 overall at home and 2-7 in the A-Sun inside the Edmunds Center. The Hatters average 60 points per game and allow opponents to score at a 72 ppg clip. They shoot 39 percent from the field, 30 percent from the three-point arc and 61 percent from the free throw line. Opponents shoot 48 percent from the field and 36 percent from three-point land. The Hatters have a propensity to turn the ball over, committing 409 on the year with opponents coming up with 217 steals.
A.J. Smith and Ridge Graham lead Stetson in scoring. Smith averages 14.7 points per game, increasing that figure to 15.2 ppg in A-Sun games. Graham averages 12.2 points per outing and tops the Hatters with six rebounds per contest.
Derek Waugh is in his 10th season at the helm of the Stetson program in his only head coaching stint of his career. He owns a 111-169 record. Prior to his stint as head coach at Stetson, Waugh served as an assistant coach at the school for three years prior to being elevated to the top position in 2000. He was a standout student-athlete at Furman, graduating from the Paladin program in 1993. He was a first team All-Southern Conference selection and earned GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-America honors.
Recalling The First Meeting
Eighty-nine days ago, Upstate turned in a dominating performance en route to taking a 78-56 victory over Stetson on Nov. 30 in Spartanburg. The win 22-point victory represents the largest margin of victory this season for Upstate. The Spartans shot 61 percent from the field, its highest field goal percentage in a game since the 2002-03 season, and were 8-for-12 from the three-point arc in the win. Upstate held a 13-point lead at halftime and used a 20-0 run to put the game away after Stetson had closed to within four.Josh Chavis led Upstate with 18 points on the night.
Seniors Close Out Career
When the final buzzer sounds Saturday night, three seniors will have played their final game in an Upstate uniform as Cedric Koffi, Pat Posey and Nick Schneiders close out their collegiate careers. Koffi has played in 16 games for Upstate after an NCAA eligibility ruling forced him to sit out all of last season and the first 12 games of this year after transferring to Upstate from Sheridan College. He averages 3.1 points per game and finished with a career-high 12 points in his first game in an Upstate uniform on Jan. 4 against ETSU. Posey has been a solid role player for two seasons and averages 5.6 points and 3.3 rebounds per game at Upstate. This year has been his best season, averaging 7.1 points and 4.0 rebounds per outing. Schneiders has been a force in the paint the last two seasons. As a senior, he is leading Upstate with 12.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, while topping the league and ranking 11th in the nation with 86 blocks. He ranks in the top 10 in seven statistical categories, including 203 blocks.
What Could Have Been
Upstate enters Saturday night's game at Stetson ninth in the A-Sun standings, one game out of eighth place held by Kennesaw State. If the Spartans were eligible to play in the A-Sun Tournament, which it isn't while it serves its last two years of provisional status while making the transition to NCAA Division I membership, Saturday's game would be huge. If Upstate wins and Kennesaw State loses to Belmont, the Spartans and Owls would have identical 7-13 records in the A-Sun. With Upstate's sweep of Kennesaw this year, the Spartans would secure eighth place. If eligible for the A-Sun Tournament, the Spartans would have secured one of the spots in the eight-team event.
Schneiders Named Academic All-American
Nick Schneiders has garnered a tremendous amount of attention and received several honors throughout his time at Upstate. However, nothing has equaled what he achieved Monday night when he was named an ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American. The senior from Rietberg, Germany, was a first team Academic All-District selection and earned second team Academic All-America honors Monday. He carries a 3.7 GPA as a graphic design major. He is the only A-Sun basketball player, male or female, to earn Academic All-America honors this season and is the sixth Academic All-America pick in the history of the athletics program at Upstate.
Schneiders Tops Own Season Blocks Record
With five blocks against Belmont on Feb. 13, Nick Schneiders broke his own single-season school record for blocked shots. He now has 86 on the season with one game remaining. The 86 blocks surpassed the 79 he swatted last season. In addition, the senior has topped the 200-block plateau and now has 203 in his career.
Upstate Close To Conference Wins Mark
While Upstate failed to win a game out of the league this season, the Spartans have held their own in the A-Sun and have recorded the second-most league wins in school history since moving to Division I in 2007. Upstate won a school record eight conference games last year and five in 2007-08. A win Saturday would give Upstate seven league wins this season, one off the school record.
Schneiders Tops The A-Sun, Ranks Nationally In
No doubt about it, Nick Schneiders is the main shot-blocking threat for Upstate. He leads Upstate, and the A-Sun, with 86 blocks on the year, averaging 3.1 per game. That figure puts him 11th in the nation. Caleb Palkert is second on the team and ranks 14th in the A-Sun with 20 blocks, while Chalmers Rogers has swatted 10.
Uzochukwu A Warrior On The Inside
A common occurrence after games is for opposing head coaches to search out junior forward Mezie Uzochukwu and tell him that they love the way he plays the game. He simply plays with heart and battles every second he is on the court. With one more point, he will reach 650 points in his career. Of his 427 rebounds, 155 have come on the offensive glass. An all-around player, he averages 7.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per game in his career, while tallying 122 assists, 76 steals and 26 blocked shots. He leads the team with four double-doubles on the year.
Racking Up Win No. 650
Not only did Upstate take down the top team in the A-Sun in Lipscomb on Feb. 11, the Spartans secured win No. 650 in the program's history.
Payne Reaches 375 Wins
Upstate head coach Eddie Payne recorded career win No. 375 Thursday night when the Spartans claimed a 59-52 victory over Florida Gulf Coast. Wrapping up his 25th season as a head coach, Payne is the only active Division I coach to have served as a head coach on all levels of college basketball - NCAA Division I, II and III, NAIA and junior college.