Spartanburg, S.C. – Brittany Clency scored a career-high 22 points and Brittany Starling recorded her second straight double-double as USC Upstate advances to the semifinals of the A-Sun Tournament after defeating the East Tennessee State Buccaneers 76-66 Tuesday evening from the Hodge Center.
The Spartans pick up their first A-Sun Tournament victory in program history as they improve to 17-13 overall, while the Buccaneers end their season at 9-21. The 17 wins by Upstate ties for second-most in the Division I era set during the 2010-11 campaign.
Clency, a Second Team All-Conference selection, went 6-for-8 at the free-throw line and also finished with six rebounds. Starling added 18 points and 10 rebounds on 5-of-8 shooting and was 8-for-10 from the charity stripe, giving her four double-doubles in the last six games. Valese McAllister tied her career-high of 16 points, while grabbing eight rebounds, as she went 7-of-12 from the floor.
Tiana Burley led ETSU with a double-double on 18 points and 10 rebounds while Serena Clark also chipped in a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Shamauria Bridges had 12 points.
Upstate shot 50.0% (17-of-34) in the second half and was 11-for-12 at the free-throw line as it outscored East Tennessee State by a 45-32 margin. Clency scored 16 of her 22 points in the second half as she connected on 5-of-9 attempts.
The Spartans trailed for most of the first half but the Buccaneers never led by more than six. ETSU jumped out to a 6-3 lead in the game's opening four minutes as Burley hit two free-throws at the 16:34 mark. Clark gave the Buccaneers a four-point lead three minutes later, 12-8, on a layup. Shelby Hicks then gave Upstate its first lead of the game as her field-goal gave the Spartans a 14-12 advantage with 11:50 to go.
East Tennessee State answered the basket by Hicks with six straight points to lead 20-14 with 9:25 remaining after a layup by Clark. Clency and Starling trimmed the deficit down to two, and then Starling would tie the game at 22-22 on two free-throws with just over six minutes left. The Buccaneers, again, came back with three straight field-goals to go back up by six. The Spartans stuck around after that and cut their deficit to 32-31 after a three by Raven Jefferson. Neither team scored for the final 1:53 as ETSU went into the locker room up 34-31.
Upstate stayed within three for the first seven minutes of the second half and took the lead for good with 12:37 to go on a jumper by Clency. That basket sparked a 10-2 Spartan run that covered nearly four minutes as Clency made it an eight-point Upstate lead, 55-47, with 8:39 left. Hicks then made it a 59-50 contest on her layup. East Tennessee State managed to get back to within four with 1:36 remaining, but the Spartans sealed the victory at the free-throw line by making their final eight attempts. Clency and Starling combined to make six of the eight free-throws while Sharmayne Edwards capped off the scoring with two of her own.
Upstate scored 46 of its 76 points inside the paint and turned 19 ETSU turnovers into 16 points. The Spartans also held a 10-0 advantage in points off the fast break.
Both teams were 27-of-70 shooting for a 38.6% shooting mark while Upstate took advantage of its opportunities at the free-throw line going 21-of-25. ETSU was 9-for-10 at the charity stripe.
The Spartans travel to Fort Myers, Fla. on Saturday to face second-seeded Stetson at 3:30 p.m. Stetson defeated No. 7 Kennesaw State 73-56 on Tuesday.
Follow Upstate women's basketball on your mobile device, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.