February 4, 2011

Spartans Down Hatters in A-Sun/CSS Game of the Week

DeLAND, Fla. – On Friday night, four different Spartans reached double figures and helped USC Upstate claim a 72-59 win inside the Edmunds Center in the A-Sun/CSS Game of the week.

Torrey Craig (Rock Hill, S.C./Great Falls) led all scorers as he scored 20 points and finished with 14 rebounds to record his fourth double-double of the season.  Craig had just five points at the break, but came alive in the second half as he canned five triples in the final 20 minutes en route to finishing with a career-best six three-pointers.

The Spartans (4-19, 3-10 A-Sun) also got strong performances from Mezie Uzochukwu (Greensboro, N.C./Northeast Guilford HS) who finished with 13 points as well as Josh Chavis (Greensboro, N.C./Dudley HS) and Tony Dukes (Ellenwood, Ga./Atlanta Metropolitan) who finished with 12 and 11, respectively.

"Winning a game, like the one we won tonight, helps breed confidence," said head coach Eddie Payne.  "It is important for our kids to get some wins under their belts as we enter the final month of the season.  Our players executed the game plan we laid out before them and that helped us claim victory tonight. Early on in the season we had a difficult schedule and losing games, as many as we did, really hurt our kids and their confidence was shaky early, but I feel we finally are turning the corner."

Upstate got on the board first win Uzochukwu connected on his jumper in the paint at the 18:35 mark.  The Spartans were able to push the lead to five at 7-2, but Stetson rallied with an 8-3 run to take its only lead of the game at 10-9 with 13:23 to play in the first period.

The Hatters (6-18, 4-9 A-Sun) would hold the lead for just 33 seconds as the Spartans went back in front on Babatunde Olumuyiwa's (Athens, Ga./Clarke Central HS) jumper to give Upstate a 11-10 lead with 12:50 to play.  The Spartans would never relinquish the lead.

After Ridge Graham cut the Spartan lead to four, 21-17, with 8:07 remaining in the first half, the Spartans went on a 9-3 run to take a 30-20 lead with 4:36 to play.  Upstate was able to thwart a quick 5-0 Hatter run as the Spartans carried a nine point lead (34-25) into the locker room at halftime.

In the second half, the Spartans were able to keep the Hatters in check as Stetson could never draw any closer than five. 

With 11:18 to play, Corey Walden connected on a layup trimming Upstate's lead to 46-41. 

After Walden's basket, the Spartans went on an 11-2 run over a span of just over four minutes to take a 57-43 advantage with 6:55 to play.

The Upstate lead dipped to eight or nine in the final minutes, before Upstate sank several free throws in the final minutes to claim the 13 point win.

Upstate shot 47.9% from the floor and nearly half its baskets came from beyond the arc.  The Spartans committed 17 turnovers in the game, 11 of which came in the second half. 

Stetson had three players reach double figures on Friday.  Corey Walden led the team with 13, while Luis Jacobo finished with 12 and Ridge Graham posted 10.

The Hatters finished shooting 40.0% for the game and shot just 26.9% from beyond the arc.  Stetson turned the ball over 15 times which resulted in 21 Upstate points.

Upstate will put its two-game win streak on the line on Sunday afternoon when they face Florida Gulf Coast.  The Spartans and Eagles are set to do battle beginning at 1:05 p.m.