JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – Despite a career-best 29 points from Torrey Craig (Great Falls, S.C.), the USC Upstate men's basketball team dropped its first Atlantic Sun Conference game of the season to ETSU Wednesday night inside the MSHA Athletic Center.
ETSU (6-7, 1-2 A-Sun) opened the game on a 12-5 run and Upstate's (8-7, 2-1) offense sputtered in the first half as the Bucs owned a 16-point lead (27-11) at the under eight minute media timeout.
ETSU pushed its lead to as many as 19 in the first half and owned an 18-point advantage at intermission (39-21).
In the second half, Upstate was able to trim the deficit to 12 or 13 on numerous occasions but missed free throws and turnovers plagued the Spartans all night.
"First of all I will congratulate ETSU for playing a real good basketball game," said Upstate head coach Eddie Payne. "They thoroughly whipped us and I thought right from the beginning we were not able to match what they brought to the game. That continued throughout the game and I thought they were very good at getting extra scoring tonight."
The Bucs, who led wire-to-wire, led by as many as 21 in the final period before claiming the 15-point home victory.
Craig, who had just four points at intermission, was 9-for-16 from the floor and a 6-for-8 mark at the charity stripe en route to a game- and career-high 29 points. Craig connected on five triples and pulled down a game-high eight rebounds.
"We have to come back from this game, it's not the fact that we lost, it's the way they manhandled us that concerns me," Payne added. "But, we are heading home for a few games, so if we can take care of business, then we will still be in the race, even though it is early in the season."
"We mixed our defense a little more in the second half as we played a little more man-to-man and Torrey just made plays for them," said ETSU head coach Murry Bartow. "He stepped up in the second half and he is a really good player. He made some pretty tough shots including some deep three-pointers. I knew coming in Upstate was a good team and that tonight would be a tough game."
Sheldon Cooley and Adam Sollazzo led a quartet of Bucs in double figures with 20 and 18 points, respectively.
Upstate, after seven straight road contests, will return to the friendly confines of the Hodge Center Saturday as it hosts Kennesaw State. Tip-off between the Spartans and the Owls is slated for 2 p.m.