Spartans Rally Past UNC Asheville with Late Heroics
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Box Score (PDF)
ASHEVILLE, N.C. – The USC Upstate men's basketball team fell behind early Thursday evening but erased a 16-point second-half deficit and rallied past UNC Asheville 73-71 in the final seconds at Kimmel Arena in non-conference action.
Another chapter was written in the storied rivalry between Upstate and Asheville and this time the Spartans had the last word, rallying from 16 points down in the second half and edging the Bulldogs at the buzzer.
"That was a gutsy win by our team," Head Coach Eddie Payne said following the victory. "It was a great second-half comeback. Some things weren't going our way early, but we took a step forward in terms of our maturity and toughness in the second half."
A pair of Ty Greene free throws proved to be the difference as a flagrant foul was whistled on Asheville with 6.6 seconds left on the clock and the sophomore gave Upstate its first lead of the night and the Spartans picked up the two-point victory on the road.
"We had a real good flurry for about three minutes where we got some deflections, made some steals and put the ball in the basket off the press and that gave us energy," Payne said. "From that point on we kept hanging in there and persevered."
Trailing by six points with 2:37 remaining, Adrian Rodgers cut the deficit in half when he completed a three-point play the old fashioned way and made it 65-62. After knocking down the free throw, Rodgers stole the inbounds pass and found Torrey Craig cutting to the basket for a wide open dunk to trim the Asheville lead to just a point.
The Spartans fouled on the ensuing possession and Asheville's Trent Meyer quickly pushed the lead right back to three with a pair of foul shots, but once again Upstate had an answer as Fred Miller came off a screen and drilled a trey from the wing to knot the score at 69-69.
"Fred set a good screen and they had to help and he sprinted to the catch, had a lot of space and hit the shot," Payne said. "They executed something we practice all the time and it was nice to see it pay off."
After a foul by Upstate and two more made free throws by the Bulldogs, Ricardo Glenn got a bucket to go in traffic and was fouled to tie the game and give the Spartans a chance to take the lead with seven seconds remaining. He would miss the ensuing free throw, but Greene chased down the long rebound in the corner, prompting Keith Hornsby to commit the flagrant foul and send Greene to the line for the game-winning free throw.
The win gives Upstate its second straight victory, improving the Spartans to 3-4 on the season, while Asheville drops its sixth straight game and falls to 1-6 on the year. The Bulldogs still cling to a 7-6 advantage in the all-time series between the two programs.
One game removed from scoring on their first 10 possessions of the contest, the Spartans were as cold as they have been all year in the opening minutes, missing eight consecutive shots to start the game before a Craig jumper at the 16:15 mark put Upstate on the board.
Despite a slow start, the Spartans held strong and trailed by just a point at 10-9 with 8:04 remaining in the first half, but the Bulldogs responded and used a 19-8 run to pull away and create the first double-digit lead of the game. Asheville continued to find easy buckets down the stretch and took a 13-point edge at 31-19 heading to intermission.
The Bulldogs opened the second half and picked up right where they left off, knocking down opening jumpers and pushing the lead to a game-high 16 points when Hornsby connected to make it a 46-31 game.
Upstate woke up from there, going on a 15-3 run fueled by a series of buckets from Torrey Craig and capped by a jumper from Ty Greene with 8:55 remaining to make it 49-46. The Spartans continued to hang around before finally tying the game with 37 seconds left and taking their first lead of the contest with just 6.6 seconds left on the clock.
Craig led all scorers with 27 points, going 11-for-22 from the field and adding seven rebounds, while Greene followed with a season-high 16 points and added a game-high three steals.
The Spartans turned the ball over just eight times, including just one miscue in the second half, while the Upstate pressure forced Asheville into 15 turnovers that led to 20 points the other way.
Upstate will continue its stretch of playing three NCAA Tournament teams from last season in a four-game span, traveling to Kansas State for a Sunday afternoon showdown in Manhattan, Kan.
Tip-off against the Wildcats at Bramlage Coliseum is slated for 2:10 Eastern Standard Time. The Contest will be televised on FOX Sports Midwest and K-StateHD.TV.