FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The February struggles for the USC Upstate men's basketball team continued on Thursday evening, rallying back from a huge deficit but coming up short in a 70-59 loss to Mercer University at the Hodge Center in Atlantic Sun Conference action.
The Spartans (13-14, 7-7 A-Sun) are still searching for their first victory in the month of February as they have now dropped four straight, while the Bears (17-9, 10-3 A-Sun) continue to roll, winning their fifth consecutive game and sweeping the season series with Upstate.
The Bears never trailed in the contest, opening the game on a 7-0 run and jumping out to a 13-2 lead when Bud Thomas caught fire from long range and drilled a trio of three-pointers to fuel the run.
The Spartans battled back and cut the first-half lead to just four on two different occasions, but Mercer responded with two more three-pointers from Thomas in the final 45 seconds of the period to push the advantage to double figures at 31-20 heading to intermission.
The two squads traded buckets during the opening minutes of the second half and Upstate quickly turned a 12-point deficit to just eight when Ricardo Glenn connected on a free throw and Torrey Craig hit from long range with 12:23 remaining to make it 43-35.
Mercer would put a stop to the Spartan run right there however, as the Bears scored 13 unanswered to extend the lead to 21 points at 57-36. The lead reached a game-high 22 points at two different times in the second half before the Spartans chipped away and trimmed the Mercer advantage to eight at the 1:25 mark.
A pair of Jakob Gollon free throws in the final minute would be enough to seal the win for the Bears and deal the Spartans an 11-point defeat at home.
Craig led all scorers with 29 points, going 9-for-23 from the field and 8-for-10 from the charity stripe, while Ty Greene was the only other Upstate player in double figures with 13.
Mercer held a 26-16 edge in points in the paint, while second chance points were deadlocked at nine apiece. The Spartans were outrebounded 36-30 and were held below 60 points for the second consecutive contest against the top two teams in the league.
The Spartans return to action Saturday afternoon, welcoming Kennesaw State University to town for the final home game of the regular season. Tip-off against the Owls is slated for 2:02 p.m. and will be broadcasted nationally on ESPN3. Saturday will also serve as Senior Day with the Spartans honoring Rob Elam, the lone graduate in 2013.