FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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MACON, Ga. – The USC Upstate men's basketball team was in search of a fourth consecutive road win Saturday afternoon at Mercer University, but the Bears were not to be denied as they held on for an 82-74 victory at Hawkins Arena in A-Sun action.
The Spartans (9-10, 3-3 A-Sun) continue to struggle in Hawkins Arena, falling to 0-6 all-time in the building, while the Bears (11-9, 5-2 A-Sun) run their home winning streak to 10 games and improve to 8-2 in the all-time series.
"I thought Mercer played well and I thought we played hard and at times well," said Upstate Head Coach Eddie Payne. "We did a lot of good things. We outrebounded them by 10 on the glass, but we fouled them too much and didn't make enough of our free throws and that was a big difference in the game."
Upstate opened the game just like they planned, scoring eight of the first 10 points in the contest and racing out to an 8-2 advantage on jumper from Jodd Maxey. The Spartans held the lead for the first 10 minutes of the game, but Mercer finally pulled in front with 9:58 left in the half on a layup by Bud Thomas to make it 15-14.
After Ty Greene continued his onslaught from long range and hit a pair of treys late in the first period, Mercer rebounded and scored the final five points of the half and took a 36-29 lead heading to intermission.
The second half proved to be a game of runs and it was Upstate who struck first, scoring the opening five points of the period on a jumper from Ricardo Glenn and a three-point play the old fashioned way by Maxey to trim the Bears' lead to just a pair at 36-34.
Mercer answered back with an 11-1 run of its own to push the lead to double-digits and race out to a 47-35 lead. The Bears led by as many as 16 with 7:58 left before Upstate put together one last offensive surge to make it a game.
The Spartans left it all out on the floor over the next six minutes, scratching and clawing for every loose ball and eventually using a Torrey Craig three-pointer with 1:25 remaining to cut the Mercer lead to six at 73-67.
"I was pleased the way we stayed within our team character when we got behind and that enabled us to chip away at the lead a little bit," said Payne. "Torrey (Craig) and Ty (Greene) hit some big shots like great players do, but all in all I liked our fight to get back into the game."
The Bears would push their lead back to double digits however and hold on for the eight-point victory for their league-leading 10th consecutive home win.
The free throw line was once again a crushing blow for the Spartans, knocking down just 12 of 24 attempts, while Mercer hit on 29 of 33 chances from the charity stripe for 87.9 percent.
Upstate outrebounded Mercer 36-26 and used 17 offensive rebounds to convert on 17 second-chance points. The Bears turned nine Spartan turnovers into 18 points the other way and outscored Upstate 23-14 in bench points.
Greene tied a career-high for points in a game with 22, going 5-for-12 from long range and 8-for-18 from the field. He added five rebounds and three assists. Craig tallied 22 points of his own in the loss, while Maxey was oncee again on the brink of a double-double, scoring 10 points and pulling down nine rebounds.
The Spartans now return home for a season-long five-game homestand, welcoming North Florida to town Thursday evening for a 7 p.m. tip-off inside the Hodge Center. Upstate is 4-2 at home this season with both losses coming by a combined three points.