SPARTANBURG, S.C. – During the Spartans five-year transition from Division II to I, the USC Upstate men's basketball team struggled year in and year out, but with a win Saturday over Jacksonville the Spartans punched their ticket to the Atlantic Sun Basketball Tournament in Macon, Ga. (Feb. 29 – Mar. 3).
Upstate (16-10, 9-4 A-Sun) joins Mercer and Belmont as the first three teams to punch a berth in the eight-team event.
At halftime the Spartans and the Dolphins (5-20, 3-11) were deadlocked at 25. Coming out of the locker room Upstate used a quick 5-2 spurt to take a 30-27 with 18:44 to play.
After Torrey Craig's (Great Falls, S.C.) connected on a three-pointer to put the Spartans in front by three, Jacksonville used a 20-4 run to take a 47-34 lead with 14:19 left in the second half. Aloys Cabell (seven points) and Glenn Powell (six points) highlighted the Dolphin run that spanned 4:06.
Jodd Maxey (Statham, Ga.) ended a five-plus minute drought with a jumper in the paint at the 12:23 mark. Maxey's basket also started a 9-0 run over a two-minute span that closed to the gap to just four, 47-43, with 10:20 remaining.
Jacksonville was able to maintain the lead until the Spartans finally broke through on an Adrian Rodgers (Alpharetta, Ga.) jumper with 4:36 to play. Rodgers completed the three-point play to give Upstate a 57-55 lead.
After Jacksonville tied the contest, Craig gave the Spartans the lead for good thanks to a lay-up with 3:53 to play. Upstate led by as many as six down the stretch, before claiming the contest by four.
Craig paced the Spartans with 20 points and 10 rebounds, while Ty Greene (Knoxville, Tenn.) chipped in 11 points and added four assists.
Aloys Cabell led the Dolphins with 23 points and Glenn Powell added 14 points.
The Spartans finished 45.6% (26-57) from the floor, while Jacksonville finished 43.8% (21-48) on its field goal attempts.
Upstate led the way in points in the paint (38-28), points off of turnovers (25-15) and second-chance points (17-16). The Dolphins led the way in transition (4-2) and bench scoring (19-15).
The Spartans will return to the court Monday night when they host North Florida at 7 p.m.