January 31, 2011

Spartans End Month on High Note with Victory over Kennesaw State

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Less than a month ago freshman Torrey Craig (Rock Hill, S.C./Great Falls HS) posted his first career 20-point game at Kennesaw State with a career-best 25 points.  On Monday night the Spartan rookie reached the 20-point plateau with a career-best 27 points to help lead USC Upstate to a 59-54 win over Kennesaw State on Monday night inside the Hodge Center.

Craig sank a three-pointer from the right wing to break a 54-54 tie with 41 seconds to play.  Craig's triple proved to be the game-winning basket as Josh Chavis (Greensboro, N.C./Dudley HS) sank two free throws with 17 seconds to play giving the Spartans (3-19, 2-10 A-Sun) the five point win.

Kennesaw State (5-17, 3-9) got on the board first as LaDaris Green connected on his layup, giving the Owls the early 2-0 advantage.

Upstate took the lead at 3-2 behind Craig's first trey of the game at the 18:09 mark and the Spartans were able to maintain the lead throughout the first half.

Kennesaw State cut the Spartan lead to just one, 19-18, with 7:29 remaining in the first period.  After Markeith Cummings sank his jumper from just above the free throw line, Upstate closed the half on a 10-4 run to take a 29-22 lead into the locker room.

After the break, the Spartans were able to push the lead to 10 points with 17:25 remaining in regulation.  The early second half run was started by a free throw by Babatunde Olumuyiwa (Athens, Ga./Clarke Central HS) and followed up by a three-pointer by Tony Dukes (Ellenwood, Ga./Atlanta Metropolitan).  The run was capped by layups by Craig and Mezie Uzochukwu (Greensboro, N.C./Northeast Guilford HS).

After the Spartans took the 10 point lead, the Owls used a 21-7 run during an eight minute stretch to claim a 48-44 lead with 8:14 to play.

The Owls pushed the lead to five, 52-47, with 4:01 to play, but failed to score a basket in the final four minutes of the game, helping Upstate earn the win.

Craig sparked the Spartans with a 5-0 burst to tie the game at 52-all with 1:57.  After a technical foul was issued on the Kennesaw State bench, Chavis sank one of two free throws to give the Spartans the lead.

The Owls were able to tie the game at 54 as Spencer Dixon connected on both free throw attempts with 54 seconds to play.

Earlier in the season Craig had a chance to tie the game against Campbell (Dec. 16), but his triple from the right side bounced off of the rim.  This time, standing in nearly the exact same spot, Craig's shot found the bottom of net and push the Spartans ahead by three, 57-54.

After a missed three-pointer by Markeith Cummings, Chavis was fouled and calmly sank both free throws with 17 seconds left.

The Owls had two shot attempts in the final seconds, but neither of them found the bottom of the net and the horn sounded and signaled the Spartan win.

Aside from Craig's 27 points, the Spartans received nine points from Uzochukwu and six from Chavis.  Olumuyiwa led all Spartans with seven rebounds, while three others finished with six.

The Owls were led by LaDaris Green's double-double of 15 points and 14 rebounds.  In the first meeting between the two schools on Jan. 3, Green finished with just four points and two rebounds.  Cummings finished with 14 points while Dixon finished with 11 to pace the Owls.

In Kennesaw, Ga., on Jan. 3, Kelvin McConnell finished with 23 points, but on Monday night the Kennesaw State guard finished with just six points.

Both teams connected on 21 field goals, the Spartans finished shooting 35.0% from the field (21-60), while the Owls finished 37.5% (21-56).  Upstate sank nine three pointers (five from Craig) compared to just two by Kennesaw State.

For the first time this season, the Spartans claimed victory when owning the rebounding advantage.  The Spartans, who entered Monday night 0-7 when winning the battle on the glass, out-rebounded the Owls 41-40.

Kennesaw State led the way in points in the paint (30-18), points off of turnovers (13-6), second chance points (14-6) and transition scoring (11-2).  The Spartans led the way in bench scoring by a nine point margin, 13-4.

Upstate will return to action on Friday night when they battle the Stetson Hatters in the CSS Game of the Week.  The Spartans and the Hatters are slated for a 7:00 p.m. tip in DeLand, Fla.