Elon, N.C. – Despite four Spartans scoring in double figures, USC Upstate could not contain Elon's Ali Ford as the sophomore guard scored 35 points to lead the Phoenix to a 103-72 victory in the first round of the Women's Basketball invitational Thursday night in Alumni Gymnasium.
Upstate ended its season with a 17-13 record after securing the university's first-ever national postseason tournament berth on the Division I level. Spartan Chelsea McMillan (East Gadsden, Fla.) ended a brilliant career by reaching another milestone. She finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds for her 41st career double-double and the 19th of the season. She reached 1,300 career points, finishing her three-years at Upstate with 1,301.
"This is not the way that I would have liked for Chelsea to go out, or any of the seniors," said Upstate head coach Tammy George. "She has meant a lot for this program and put us in this position to earn a postseason berth. I hate that she and the rest of the seniors had it end like this."
Elon jumped out to an early lead behind the play of Ford who nailed three three-pointers in the first three minutes. The offensive spurt allowed the Phoenix to open a 15-6 lead with 16:13 to play. Upstate also was dealt a blow when McMillan picked up her second foul of the game and was sent to the bench just four minutes into the contest.
Ford continued to pace Elon in the first half as Upstate had trouble containing her. She scored seven-straight points in a 55 second span to give the Phoenix a 24-8 lead with 13:17 to play in the half. Upstate's Madisen Webb (Georgetown, Ky.) nailed a three-pointer to end a 9-0 Elon run and cut the Phoenix lead to 24-11.
After falling behind by 16, Upstate rallied to cut the deficit to 11, 28-17, with 10:10 to play, but Elon increased its advantage to 15 points at the 9:07 mark.
Tee'Ara Copney (Asheville, N.C.) nailed a three-pointer to cut the Elon lead to 12, but the Phoenix used an 8-0 spurt to take the lead to 20 points with 5:11 to go and went into the half with a 51-28 lead. Elon was simply on fire in the first half, shooting 49 percent from the field, 63 percent from the three-point arc and 86 percent from the free throw line.
Despite trailing by 23 points at the half, Upstate continued to battle in the second half. The Spartans cut the lead to 17 points on two occasions early on, but Elon responded each time. Leading 54-37 with 16:43 to play in the game, Elon used a 10-0 run to open a 27-point advantage. The Spartans would only get as close as 18 the rest of the way.
Despite the loss, Upstate did get a glimpse of what postseason play will be like for a program that has combined for 37 wins in the last two seasons and finished third in the A-Sun two-straight seasons.
"I think this was good for us," said George. "It is a situation where if you win, you move on. If you lose, you go home. It was good for our players to be put in that situation and something we can learn from as we move forward. The one positive we can take from tonight is that we never quit. We didn't play perfectly, but our effort in the second half was much better than in the first. We didn't come out from the get-go and they did."
Lauren McRoberts (Carmel, Ind.) tallied her second career double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds to help the Upstate cause. Copney finished with a team-high 22 points, while Webb, playing in her first game since suffering a concussion in a scary scene at North Florida on Jan. 15, added a strong 13 points and seven rebounds.