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WACO, TEXAS – The USC Upstate men's basketball team gave Baylor University all they could handle Monday evening, but a late run by the Bears held off the Spartans 73-57 in the Ferrell Center in non-conference action.
Baylor (7-3) wins its second straight game and takes the first meeting between the two schools, while Upstate (4-6) continues to struggle on the road in its brutal non-conference schedule to open the season.
"This is a game that as a coach, you know that your opponent is a lot better than people might realize, said Baylor Head Coach Scott Drew. "You can see them in the NCAA tournament winning a game."
The Spartans Trailed by just a point with 8:23 remaining in the game on a jumper by Adrian Rodgers, but Baylor clamped down on defense from there and held Upstate without a field goal over the next eight minutes to run away and pick up the 16-point victory.
"I think that it was a great run to finish the game," Drew said. "As a young team, you're growing up and learning. You're not as rattled or feeling the pressure. It started with the defense getting stops, then we got high-percentage shots that helped us close."
Five made free throws and a layup by Mario Blessing in the final seconds was all the offense the Spartans could muster down the stretch. Upstate went 1-for-7 from the field in the final eight minutes, allowing the Bears to end the game on a 22-7 run and escape with the win.
"I think we're still trying to learn how to win a big game like this on the road and do well for 40 minutes," said Upstate Head Coach Eddie Payne. "Hats off to Baylor."
The Spartans controlled the first half, leading by as many as four points on five different occasions before Baylor took its first lead of the game with 6:37 remaining in the period on a fast break layup by A.J. Walton.
After eight ties and five lead changes in the first half, the Bears scored four straight points over the final 60 seconds and took a two-point edge into intermission.
"I thought we got a lot of good looks and executed fairly well," said Payne. "The three kids that scored for us were 8-for-31, so obviously when that happens, you can't beat a team like Baylor on the road, but from the standpoint of structure and execution and tempo, it was about like we wanted."
Upstate quickly faced a seven-point deficit in the opening minutes of the second half, but a 9-0 run by the Spartans erased the Baylor advantage and Upstate jumped in front 39-37 on a pair of free throws by Torrey Craig.
Rodgers would connect on a three-pointer less than a minute later to give the Spartans a four-point lead, but the Bears battled back and an Isaiah Austin dunk with 9:58 left deadlocked the two teams at 46-46 and created the 12th and final tie of the game.
"From our perspective, it was a one-point game with eight minutes to go and we scored seven points after that," Payne continued. "Pierre Jackson stepped up and made big plays like you would expect a player like that to do. We had some breakdowns from an execution perspective and they took advantage of it."
Ricardo Glenn paced the Spartans with his first double-double of the season, scoring 15 points and adding 10 rebounds. Craig followed with 14 points and seven rebounds as he stretched his double-digit scoring streak to 10 games to start the year.
Rodgers was the only other Upstate player in double figures, scoring 10 points and adding two assists. Blessing finished 3-for-6 from the field for seven points and tallied three assists and two steals.
Cory Jefferson led Baylor with a game-high 17 points, while Austin tallied a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
The Spartans will now make their way to Nashville, Tenn., and prepare to take on Tennessee State Friday evening. Tip-off against the Tigers is slated for 8 p.m. EST at the Gentry Center.