Spartanburg, S.C. – Tee'Ara Copney and Chelsea McMillan each turned in strong offensive performances to lead USC Upstate to a 69-64 victory over Kennesaw State in A-Sun women's basketball action Monday night in the Hodge Center.
Upstate improved to 12-9 overall and 8-4 in the A-Sun with the win. The Spartans have won five of their last six games and will head to Florida to take on Florida Gulf Coast and Stetson this weekend. Kennesaw State fell to 6-14 overall and 3-9 in the league with the loss.
Copney (Asheville, N.C.) led all scorers with 27 points and connected on 11-of-12 from the free throw line in the game. McMillan (east Gadsden, Fla.) recorded her second-straight double-double with 21 points and 11 rebounds to pace the Spartans.
"I think earlier in the year we may have lost that one, but we have matured as the year has gone and we did a good job of pulling out the win," said Upstate head coach Tammy George.
The game certainly wasn't pretty as the teams combined for 61 turnovers and 49 fouls. In the end, it was Upstate's defensive presence in the first half and the ability of McMillan to play with four fouls that made the difference in the game.
Upstate and Kennesaw State traded baskets early on before the Spartans clamped down on defense and held Kennesaw State without a bucket on 14-straight possessions. The defense allowed the Spartans to open a 16-6 lead with 9:39 to play before halftime.
Upstate increased the lead to 11 on two occasions before Kennesaw State mounted a comeback. The Owls used an 8-0 run to cut the Upstate lead to 24-21 with 3:04 to play. The Spartans, though, battled right back and opened a 32-23 lead with 19 seconds to play and went into halftime with a seven-point advantage, 32-25.
Upstate forced the Owls into 18 turnovers in the first 20 minutes and although the Spartans opened an 11-point lead on two occasions, it could have been larger. However, Upstate committed 16 turnovers itself to allow the Owls to stay in the game. The Spartans held the Owls to 26 percent shooting in the first half and shot 41 percent from the field themselves.
Upstate opened the second half with four-straight points to again push the lead to 11, but Kennesaw State would never go away. McMillan picked up her fourth foul of the game with 16:20 to play. With her on the bench, the Owls cut the lead to three points, 38-35 with 14:05 to play.
George was able to manage McMillan's minutes on the court and Copney picked up the slack offensively. Copney nailed a three-pointer, converted a layup and sank two free throws to score seven-straight points for the Spartans before McMillan reentered and scored a bucket. Kendra Wallace (hurricane, W.Va.) hit a three-pointer and, in a methodical march, Upstate increased its lead to 10 points with 10:34 to play in the game.
"We had to manage things the whole game," said George. "We had several players get in foul trouble, but we turned to Kim (Roach) and Christine (Nyobe) to come in when Lauren (McRoberts) and Chelsea picked up their fourth fouls and they played some big minutes for us. I told Chelsea she had to stay in the game the last 12 minutes."
Despite the lead, Upstate still could not put Kennesaw State away and the Owls cut the lead to four with 1:58 remaining. McMillan made two free throws to give Upstate a 64-58 lead with 1:37 to play and Copney made 5-of-6 down the stretch to preserve the win for the Spartans as the Owls would only get as close as four points the rest of the way.
"We definitely want the ball in her (Copney) hands at the end of the game," said George. "She has the confidence to step up and hit the shots when we need her to."
Upstate finished the game shooting 39 percent from the field. However, the Spartans made 7-of-14 from behind the three-point arc and converted 22-of-29 from the charity stripe. Kennesaw State shot 32 percent from the field and connected on 3-of-10 from the arc. The Owls were 21-for-30 from the free throw line.
Upstate only had five players score in the game. Wallace finished with eight points and five rebounds, surpassing the 800-point plateau in her career. Sharniece Wadelington (Greenville, S.C.) added seven points and nine rebounds. It marked the second-straight game she has pulled down nine boards. Kim Roach (Columbia, S.C.) added six points.
Angie Smith led the Kennesaw State attack with 16 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals. Ashley Holliday added 12 points, while Chelcey Farrar turned in 10 points and four steals.