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SPARTANBURG, S.C. – In a game that had a postseason feel in mid-January, the USC Upstate men's basketball team dropped an overtime heartbreaker to Florida Gulf Coast University, falling 72-71 at the Hodge Center in Atlantic Sun Conference action.
The Spartans (8-8, 2-1 A-Sun) see their 12-game home winning streak come to an end with the loss, while the Eagles (12-6, 4-1 A-Sun) win their third straight game and vault to the top of the A-Sun standings.
With time running down in regulation and the Spartans trailing by three, Ty Greene ran off a series of screens, took a pass from Jodd Maxey and launched a trey with 20 seconds left that found nothing by nylon to knot the score at 64-64.
The Eagles had one last look in regulation, but a Bernard Thompson's running jumper in the lane bounced off the rim to force the first overtime game of the year for the Spartans.
Upstate trailed by as many as three points in extra period before Greene proved just as clutch as he did in regulation, burying his fifth three-pointer of the night from the wing to knot the score at 69-69. The Spartans pulled in front for the first time since the opening half on a layup from Torrey Craig on the following possession with 1:31 remaining, but it was FGCU who rallied in the final seconds and provided the heroics.
After Brett Comer connected on one of two free throw attempts, Upstate had a chance to extend its lead, but Adrian Rodgers was forced to launch a 40-foot three-pointer as the shot clock expired, giving Florida Gulf Coast the ball with 15 seconds remaining.
After running the clock down below five seconds, Eric McKnight drew the defense from the lane and the sophomore found Chase Fieler wide open under the goal who put up the game-winning shot that counted after a goaltending call to give FGCU a 72-71 lead.
Upstate had one final chance with 1.5 seconds left, but a half court heave at the buzzer from Craig bounced off the backboard and gave the Eagles a dramatic comeback win on the road.
"I am very disappointed, I thought Florida Gulf Coast deserved to win and played better than we did," said Upstate Head Coach Eddie Payne. "The thing that gave us a chance to win was the big shots made by Torrey (Craig) and Ty (Greene). That kept us in it, but from en execution standpoint they outplayed us and deserved to win the game."
Five FGCU players finished in double figures, led by 19 points from Bernard Thompson, while Fieler's game-winning bucket left him with 17 points, including a 7-for-8 stint from the charity stripe.
Craig paced Upstate and led all scorers with 24 points, while a season-high 14 rebounds gave him his second double-double of the season.
Greene found his stroke once again from long range, knocking down five three-pointers for the second straight game and finishing with a season-high 20 points, while adding a trio of steals on the defensive end.
Upstate outrebounded its opponent for the seventh straight game, but the 38-35 edge on the boards was not enough as the Spartans fell to 6-3 on the year when holding a lead on the glass.
The Spartans will turn their attention to Saturday and another Atlantic Sun Conference game, welcoming Stetson University to town for a 5 p.m. tip-off inside the Hodge Center. The matchup between Upstate and the Hatters will be broadcasted nationally on ESPN3.