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FORT MYERS, Fla. – With five players scoring double figures, Florida Gulf Coast University (19-5, 12-0 A-Sun) was more than the USC Upstate women's basketball team (9-14, 5-7 A-Sun) could handle Saturday evening as the Eagles claimed a 72-49 decision over the Spartans inside Alico Arena in Atlantic Sun Conference action.
The Spartans held their own in the opening 10 minutes of the contest, tying things up three different times early on. Upstate knotted things up at 13-13 off of back-to-back layups from freshmen Travonda Haddock (Pollocksville, N.C.) and Brittany Starling (Sumter, S.C.) with 12:40 left in the first half.
The Eagles answered back with a 7-0 run, pushing their lead to 20-13 with 10:10 to play until intermission. Starling then netted a layup for Upstate assisted by senior Tyra Smith (Lawrenceville, Ga.). The rookie center was fouled on the play and completed the old fashion three-point play, cutting the FGCU advantage to 20-16 with just under 10 minutes left in the opening frame. The Spartans managed to pull within two-points of the Eagles off of a jumper from freshman Tweety Hawkins (Madison, Ga.) with 8:09 on the clock.
Unfortunately for Upstate, the two-point deficit would prove to be the closest the Spartans would get for the remainder of the contest. FGCU took a 13-point lead (40-27) into the locker room at halftime. The Eagles then opened the second half with 10-straight points, pushing their run to 14-0 from the end of the first half and taking a 52-27 lead with 15:44 left in the contest.
A jumper from sophomore Shelby Hicks (Greeneville, Tenn.) with 15:23 on the clock snapped the nearly five-minute drought for the Spartans. Just 16 seconds later, the forward netted a layup to cut the FGCU lead to 52-31. Smith collected assists on both Hicks buckets as the point guard created the second basket after gathering a rebound on the defensive end.
FGCU then went on a 13-0 run, pushing the score to 65-31 with 10:17 to play. In the remaining 10 minutes the Spartans managed to chip the 34-point deficit down to 23, taking the eventual 72-49 loss.
On the night, Upstate was led by Hicks with 12 points, marking her sixth double digit scoring effort this season. She was 5-for-8 from the floor and 2-for-3 from the line, while snagging four rebounds. Starling was second on the team, tallying 11 first-half points. She grabbed a team-best five boards on the night, while handing out one assists and collecting two steals.
Upstate senior Tee'Ara Copney (Asheville, N.C.) posted nine points to go along with four rebounds and three steals. Haddock tied her career-high eight points, which she recorded Nov. 21 against George Washington. She also grabbed three boards.
FGCU was led by Sarah Hansen with 15 points, while Brittany Kennedy tallied 13. DyTiesha Dunson posted 12 points for the Eagles, while Anthi Chatzigiakoumi and Joyce Iamstrong rounded out the double figure scoring with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Hansen pulled down a game-high seven rebounds.
The Spartans managed to shoot 46.5 percent from the floor, compared to FGCU's 44.4 percent. Upstate was 16.7 percent from long distance, while the Eagles were 26.3 percent from behind the arc. At the line, neither team seemed to look like themselves as Upstate shot 66.7 percent (8-12) and FGCU was 65.5 percent (19-29). FGCU and Upstate are typically the best two teams at the line in the A-Sun.
The Spartans continue their Sunshine State tour Monday, Feb, 11, heading over to DeLand, Fla., to take on Stetson for a 7 p.m. tip-off. Follow Upstate women's basketball this season on your mobile device, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.