Bears Spoil Spartan Homecoming with Second Half Surge
SPARTANBURG, S.C. – After owning a three point halftime advantage, 28-25, and a game-high 17 points from Torrey Craig (Rock Hill, S.C./Great Falls HS), the Spartans could not hang on as Mercer rallied in the second half to claim a 65-53 victory on Saturday afternoon inside the Hodge Center.
USC Upstate (2-19, 1-10) owned the rebounding advantage (43-34), but for the seventh time this season, the Spartans lost when owning the edge on the glass. With the win, Mercer improves to 8-14 overall and 5-6 in league play.
The Spartans got off to a fast start on Saturday as they opened the game on a 13-2 run over the first 4:47 of the game. During the spurt, Craig scored nine of Upstate's first 13 points, helping the homestanding Spartans open up and 11 point cushion.
The Spartans were able to push the lead to 13 when Carter Cook (Clemmons, N.C./Calvary Baptist Day School) drilled a three pointer to push the lead to 20-7 with 11:24 remaining in the first half.
After Cook's triple, the Bears woke from their hibernation as they went on a 15-2 run to tie the game at 22 with 4:10 remaining.
Cook ended a nearly three minute drought by both teams as he put Upstate ahead 24-22 with 1:29 to play in the first half. Mercer briefly took the lead at 25-24 but the Spartans closed on a mini 4-0 run to take a 28-25 lead into the locker room.
The two teams battled throughout the first eight minutes of the second half as the game was a deadlock at 39-39 with 12:12 to play after a pair of free throws by Ricardo Glenn (Augusta, Ga./Richmond Academy).
After Glenn's free throws, Mercer went on a 12-1 run to take a 51-40 lead with less than seven and a half minutes to play.
Down the stretch, the Spartans could get no closer than seven points as Mercer went on to claim the 12 point victory on Saturday.
Aside from Craig's 17 points, Josh Chavis (Greensboro, N.C./Dudley HS) was the only other Spartan to reach double figures as he finished with 13 points.
Craig nearly netted his fourth double-double of his career but fell just one rebound shy of the feat.
Brandon Moore led the Bears with 16 points and 11 rebounds on Saturday. Moore finished with 15 points and eight rebounds in the second half. Three other Mercer players reached double figures, Brian Mills (15), Bud Thomas (13) and Langston Hall (10).
Upstate shot just 29.1% from the floor (16-55) and connected on just five triples on 21 attempts (23.8%). Meanwhile, Mercer was 21-for-53 from the floor (39.6%), but like the Spartans, struggled from beyond the arc (5-for-23; 23.7%).
Mercer led the way in points in the paint (20-18), points off of turnovers (17-11) and second chance points (8-6). The Spartans owned the advantage in transition scoring (6-4), while both teams received eight points from their respective benches.
Upstate will return to action on Monday night when they look to avenge a 78-71 loss at the hands of Kennesaw State on Jan. 3. Tip-off between the Spartans and the Owls is slated for 7:30 p.m. and is part of a men's and women's twinbill.