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SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Despite it being a tight game at halftime, Stetson (12-4, 5-0 A-Sun) used a second half surge to defeat the USC Upstate women's basketball team (5-10, 1-3 A-Sun) 84-66 Saturday inside the Hodge Center to remain unbeaten in Atlantic Sun Conference play.
The Spartans trailed by just three (32-29) at the intermission, but couldn't seem to find the momentum again in the second half. The Hatters jumped out to a quick 16-point lead thanks to a 14-2 run, putting the score at 52-36 with 13:11 left to play. During a stretch of about four minutes, SU netted nine-straight layups as the Spartans kept getting beat by the Hatter press-break.
Stetson continued to roll and took its largest lead of the night at 82-56 with 2:23 to play. In the remaining two and half minutes, the Spartans managed to shave the 26-point deficit down to 18 as SU went on to claim the 84-66 victory. Stetson improves to 5-0 in league play and remains at the top of the conference standings with Florida Gulf Coast, who is also 5-0 in the A-Sun.
The Hatters opened the contest off strong, taking a 10-0 advantage into the first media timeout with 15:31 to go in the first frame. Senior Tee'Ara Copney (Asheville, N.C.) finally got Upstate on the board with a layup with 15:05 on the clock, sparking a 13-4 run. The Spartans pulled within one off of a three-pointer from redshirt freshman Maddie Herr (Arcadia, Ind.) to put the score at 14-13 with just over 11 minutes to play in the half.
Upstate continued to do battle and knotted things up at 21-21 with a layup from senior Tyra Smith (Lawrenceville, Ga.), who was fouled on the shot. She completed the three-point play and gave the Spartans a 22-21 lead. Upstate went on to take a three-point lead twice, but the 26-23 advantage with 4:44 remaining in the half would prove to be the last time the Spartans would be upfront.
SU responded with a 9-1 run, taking a 32-27 lead with 1:17 to go in the opening frame. Upstate cut Stetson's five-point advantage down to three with a pair of made free throws from freshman Brittany Clency (Greensboro, N.C.) just before halftime. The Hatters went into the locker room up 32-29 at the break.
Four Spartans scored double-figures as Clency led the way with a career-high 14 points. The rookie was 4-for-7 from the floor and 6-of-8 from the line, while grabbing three rebounds. This marked her first double-digit outing of the season.
Copney kept her double-figure scoring streak alive, tallying 11 points to reach double-digits for the eighth-straight game and 11th time this season. Smith also posted 11 points, while dishing out a team-high four assists.
Herr closed out the double-digits for Upstate as she turned in a career-best 10 points. The sophomore netted two three-pointers and was a perfect 4-for-4 from the charity stripe. Herr also pulled down a career-high six rebounds.
Other noteworthy Spartans on the day, included freshman Brittany Starling (Sumter, S.C.), senior Lauren McRoberts (Carmel, Ind.), junior Valese McAllister (Twin City, Ga.) and freshman Tweety Hawkins (Madison, Ga.). Starling put up eight points and collected four rebounds. McRoberts grabbed a team-best seven boards to go along with six points and two assists, while McAllister had six rebounds. Hawkins registered six points, snagged a career-high four boards and handed out two assists.
The Hatters were led by five players scoring double-figures. Jama Sharp posted a game-high 17 points to go along with five rebounds, three assists and a game-best eight steals. Cherisse Burris flirted with a double-double for Stetson, putting up 16 points and gathering a team-high eight boards. She also gave out three assists. Sharp went 7-for-10 from the floor, while Burris was 6-for-9.
The reigning A-Sun Player of the Week and last year's conference Player of the Year, Victoria McGowan, tallied 15 points for Stetson, while collecting four rebounds and dishing out a team-high four assists. Sasha Sims recorded 13 points for the Hatters, while Shanasa Sanders added 11 points. Sims was perfect from the line, connecting on 4-for-4, while Sanders pulled down five rebounds.
Stetson outscored the Spartans in the paint 42-28, but turnovers proved to be the difference in the game. The Hatters scored 33 points off of 24 Upstate turnovers, while the Spartans scored just 10 points off of SU's 12 miscues.
The Spartans shot better than they have in their last two outings, but worse than they have at home in more than a month. Upstate was 39.2 percent from the floor and 31.3 percent from long distance, while Stetson was better in both areas. SU shot 53.3 percent from the floor and 33.3 percent from three-point range. However, the Spartans continued to show off their skills at the line, shooting 80.8 percent (21-of-26) from the charity stripe. The Hatters were 66.7 percent from the free throw line, connecting on 16-of-24.
The Spartans return to action Monday, Jan. 14 to take Florida Gulf Coast for a 7 p.m. tip-off in the Hodge Center. Follow Upstate women's basketball this season on your mobile device, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.