Furious Spartan Comeback Falls Short At Stetson
Feb. 8, 2008
DeLand, Fla. - Left for dead for the majority of the game, Upstate rallied to cut a 25-point deficit to four points late in the game, but Stetson fought off the determined Spartans to take a 72-64 victory Friday night in Atlantic Sun Conference men's basketball action in the Edmunds Center.
"We didn't show up to play early," said Upstate head coach Eddie Payne. "We have to take responsibility that we didn't come to play for a full 40 minutes. Having said that, we did a lot of good things to get back into the game. We can't feel good about making a comeback because if we had done the things we needed to do at the beginning of the game we wouldn't have been in that position."
Stetson improved to 11-13 overall and 6-4 in the A-Sun. Upstate fell to 6-18 overall and 4-6 in the league. The Spartans travel to Ft. Myers, Fla., to take on Florida Gulf Coast Sunday afternoon at 2:00.
USC Upstate failed to make a field goal for the first 9:18 of the game, allowing Stetson to build a 19-4 lead. Stetson, which entered the game shooting just 29.1 percent from behind the three-point arc, hit four of its first six three-pointers to open the 16-point lead.
Upstate finally settled into the game midway through the half. After Stetson opened a 21-4 lead on a pair of free throws by Sheldon Oliver, Upstate rattled off five straight points to cut the Hatter lead to 12, 21-9, with 8:43 to play before the half. However, Upstate continued to struggle from the field and Stetson capitalized.
Stetson ran the lead 16 points with 7:09 to play and the lead grew to 22 on a jumper from Eric Diaz with 1:34 to play. The Hatters went into the half with a 38-18 lead.
Stetson finished the half shooting 46.7 percent from the field, making 14-of-30 shots. The Hatters made 7-of-17 three-pointers, 41.2 percent. Upstate shot just 23.8 percent from the field, making 5-of-21 from the field and failed to make a three-pointer.
Davis was the lone bright spot for the Spartans in the first half, finishing the first 20 minutes with 11 points. Garfield Blair led the way for Stetson with 11 points of his own.
For most of the second half, the game seemed to be a mirror image of the first half. Stetson came out of halftime on fire, extending a 20-point halftime advantage to 25 with 17:19 to play. Following a bucket by Sheldon Oliver, Upstate trailed by 20 points with 8:13 to play in the game.
Then the contest got emotional as four players, two from each team, were called for technical fouls after a minor pushing incident on the baseline at Stetson's end of the court. The emotional outburst seemed to quiet Stetson and Upstate used the Hatter lull and the increased energy of their own to make a furious run at Stetson.
Upstate scored 11 straight points to get the deficit to single digits for the first time since the 16:14 mark of the first half, cutting the Stetson lead to 55-46 with 5:33 to play. After the Hatters increased the lead to 10 with 3:48 to play, Upstate made another run.
Luke Payne made a mid-range jumper, Rashawn Brailsford converted a tip-in and Payne made a layup to give the Spartans six unanswered points, cutting the Stetson lead to four, 58-54, with 2:46 to play in the game.
A.J. Smith converted a layup coming out of a timeout to give Stetson a six-point advantage. Davis made 1-of-2 free throws on the Spartans' next possession to cut the lead to five with 2:10 to play, but that would be as close as Upstate would get. Stetson pushed the lead back to 10 points and held on for the win.
Garfield Blair led the way for Stetson, finishing with 21 points and five rebounds. Smith added 17 points, while Oliver added 11. The Hatters shot 44.9 percent from the floor, including 40 percent from behind the arc. They also converted 18-of-23 shots from the free throw line to keep the Spartans at bay late in the game.
Davis led Upstate with 20 points and six rebounds. Brailsford posted career highs with 16 points and seven boards. Payne added 10 points and four assists. Upstate finished the game shooting 42.3 percent for the game, converting 54.8 percent in the second half. The Spartans made 4-of-17 from three-point land and were 16-of-25 from the charity stripe.