Spartans Overcome Slow Start, Down Stetson in A-Sun Opener
DeLAND, Fla. – Trailing by 11 (35-24) with 1:25 to play in the first half, the USC Upstate men's basketball team scored the final eight points of the half to cut the deficit to three. Upstate outscored Stetson, 47-28 in the second half en route to the 79-63 victory Saturday afternoon inside the Edmunds Center.
After Ty Greene (Knoxville, Tenn.) connected on a three-pointer putting the Spartans (7-5, 1-0 Atlantic Sun) in front, 8-6, with 15:14 to play in the first half, Stetson (4-5, 1-1 A-Sun) used a 14-2 run to take a 20-10 lead with 11:45 to play in the half.
Stetson's lead fluctuated between eight and 12 points until Upstate's surge late in the half. After a successful three-point play by Aaron Graham put Stetson in front by 11 with 1:25 to play, the Spartans began to chip away at the lead.
A pair of three-pointers by Mario Blessing (Kusterdingen, Germany) and Chalmers Rogers' (Fort Mill, S.C.) jumper with four seconds remaining trimmed the Hatter lead to just three (35-32) at intermission.
"Coach (Payne) told us at halftime to pick it up and play as a team to get the ball moving," said redshirt sophomore Ricardo Glenn. "He also kept reminding us that our defensive pressure would lead to offense and it did."
Stetson's Liam McInernery and Adam Pegg combined to score the team's first nine points of the second half as the Hatters pushed their lead to eight, 44-38, with 17:06 to play.
Upstate used a 14-6 run to take its first lead since the 15:14 mark of the first half. The run was highlighted by an alley-oop slam by Babatunde Olumuyiwa (Athens, Ga.) and a three pointer by Greene. Ricardo Glenn gave the Spartans the two-point lead when he connected on his lay-up with 9:28 remaining.
"We came out a little flat today, but we picked it up our intensity in the second half," said freshman Ty Greene. "We started playing our style of basketball and it led to a big run midway through the half and we were able to maintain the lead down the stretch."
Stetson took its final lead of the contest, 56-55, on a lay-up by Chris Perez with 7:56 to play.
The Spartans regained the lead on Jodd Maxey's (Statham, Ga.) fast break dunk with 7:05 remaining. Maxey's dunk sparked a 12-0 run by the Spartans over a span of 2:57, giving the squad a 67-56 lead with just over four minutes to play.
"I feel that we managed to stay on task as far as our game plan goes," said head coach Eddie Payne. "It paid dividends for us as the game moved along and our pressure probably got to them a little bit. We played better in the second half, we made more shots and we had better possessions; so from our perspective we battled through a slow start and were able to earn the win."
Upstate's lead dipped below double figures just once over the final four minutes as the Spartans claimed the 16-point win Saturday.
Greene paced the Spartans with a career-high 21 points, while Glenn recorded his first career double-double (12 points, 14 rebounds). Glenn's 14 rebounds were a career-high and the redshirt sophomore grabbed eight offensive rebounds.
"You have to be intent on finishing the game, you have to treat the next possession like the game is tied with 17 minutes to play in the first half," said Stetson head coach Casey Alexander. "We didn't do that today and when you let things snowball like we did, a good team is going to take advantage of that. They (Upstate) are a good team and they took advantage of our mistakes today."
Four different Stetson players reached double figures Saturday. Chris Perez led the team with 12 points, while Aaron Graham, Joel Naburgs and Adam Pegg tallied 10 points each.
Upstate will close out its four-game, 10-day road swing Monday night at Florida Gulf Coast. Tip-off between the Spartans and the Eagles is slated for 7:30 p.m.