Spartans Return To A-Sun Play Against FGCU Monday Night

Spartans Return To A-Sun Play Against FGCU Monday Night

Dec. 13, 2009

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Spartanburg, S.C. - USC Upstate will look to shake off the rust from not playing in over a week and remain perfect in the A-Sun when the Spartans play host to Florida Gulf Coast Monday night at 7:00 in the Hodge Center. Upstate will look to remain undefeated and move to the top of the A-Sun standings with a win Monday night after claiming a dominating 78-56 victory over Stetson on Nov. 30 in Spartanburg. The Spartans enter the game 1-6 overall after taking a 72-45 loss at Wichita State on Dec. 5. FGCU enters Monday's game with a 1-6 overall record. The Eagles will play their A-Sun opener, marking the third straight year they have opened league play on the road. FGCU leads the all-time series, 2-1. The Eagles claimed the first two wins in the series with both games played in Fort Myers. Upstate claimed a 71-62 win last year in Spartanburg.

Fans not in attendance at the game can watch the action live online for a fee at www.ASun.TV, the conference's live video streaming service. Fans can also listen to the game for free and receive live statistical updates via the official Upstate Athletics Web site,

Looking Back At Wichita State
On a cold, blustery night in Wichita, Kan., Upstate could not muster a consistent offensive outing and dropped a 72-45 decision to Wichita State on Dec. 5. The only bright spot of the night came as a result of Nick Schneiders blocking four shots to tie the Upstate career mark of 136 now shared with Kevin Harrington (2000-04). Schneiders blocked three shots in the first half and picked up another in the second to tie the all-time mark. Upstate battled the Shockers early with solid defense and trailed by just three with under 15 minutes to play in the half. However, the Spartans went cold from the field and Wichita State went on a 12-1 run to open a 19-5 lead. After Upstate cut the lead to nine, the Shockers outscored the Spartans by 10 the rest of the half to take a 19-point lead at halftime. Upstate fought to stay in the game early in the second half, but Wichita State extended the lead to as many as 30 points before taking the 27-point victory. Ryan LeGates scored a career-high nine points to lead the Spartans as Upstate failed to put a player in double figures. Upstate shot just 31.7 percent from the field and converted just 4-fo-16 from the three-point arc.

Scouting Florida Gulf Coast
Florida Gulf Coast opens A-Sun play Monday at Upstate, marking the third straight year the Eagles will open conference play away from home. FGCU is 1-1 in A-Sun conference openers. The Eagles enter the game against the Spartans with a 1-6 record on the year, picking up their first win with an 81-64 victory over Florida International in the A-Sun Game of the Week Saturday in Fort Myers, Fla. Reed Baker had 20 points and eight rebounds to lead FGCU to the win.

Prior to the win over FIU, FGCU took losses from Michigan State (97-58), Prairie View A&M (69-54), SMU (79-62), Miami (77-58), Bethune-Cookman (67-59) and Longwood (82-75).

FGCU was a perimeter-oriented team the last two years, but has a more balance this season with two of its top four scorers playing the forward position and two playing at guard. The Eagles shoot 40.2 percent from the floor but have struggled from the 3-pt. arc, hitting just 25.5 percent from downtown. FGCU converts 66.1 percent of its shots from the free throw line.

FGCU holds opponents to 43.7 percent shooting from the field and 33.1 percent from the arc. The Eagles are solid on the boards, grabbing an average of 37.6 rebounds per game. Opponents average 39.7 rpg. Defensively, FGCU has forced 102 turnovers, blocked 20 shots and picked 52 steals on the season.

Redshirt freshman Anthony Banks leads the team in scoring at 11.9 points per game from his forward position. He also tops the club with 5.0 rebounds per outing. Sophomore guard Reggie Chambers ranks second on the team in scoring at 11.0 ppg and is followed by junior guard Reed Baker at 9.9 ppg and senior forward Kyle Marks at 6.3 ppg. Marks is tied with Banks for the team lead with 5.0 rpg. Chambers tops the club with 20 assists and nine steals.

Dave Balza is in his 8th season at the helm of the FGCU program. He started the program in 2002 and owns a 136-86 record at the school. FGCU is his second head coaching stint, serving as head coach at St. Joseph's College from 1998-01. In 11 seasons in the first chair, he owns a 171-134 career record with two conference Coach of the Year honors (Great Lakes Valley Conference, DII) and one appearance in the NCAA DII National Tournament (FGCU, 2005). He is a 1991 graduate of Michigan and was a member of the staff when the Wolverines won the 1989 National Championship.

Schneiders Moves To The Top Of The Heap
With four blocked shots at Wichita State on Dec. 5, Upstate senior center Nick Schneiders moved to the top of the school's career blocked shots record with 136. He is tied for the all-time lead with Kevin Harrington, who played for the Spartans from 2000-04. Schneiders has waited for more than a week to have a chance to claim the record for himself.

Call It A Homecoming
Not since joining the ranks of NCAA Division I in 2007 has Upstate played this many home games prior to Christmas. Monday's game against FGCU will be the first of two games in three days in the Hodge Center as Upstate will play host to Winthrop Wednesday night before heading to UNLV and Arizona State to close out play in December. With the Spartans already playing games against UNC Greensboro (76-70 L, Nov. 24) and Stetson (78-56 W, Nov. 30) in the Hodge Center, Upstate will play four games at home prior to Christmas. That is the most since playing two games at home in 2007-08.

It's Feast Or Famine
The 2009-10 season has been a roller coaster on the offensive side of the ball for Upstate. While the Spartans have shown the ability to fill the hoop, having reached 70 or more points on two occasions this year, Upstate has also shown futility with the rock, failing to reach 50 points on four occasions. As expected, the Spartans have lost all four games when they have failed to reach 50 points. Upstate is 1-1 in games when it scores 70 or more points.

Spartans Turn It On At Home
Upstate sure feels comfortable in the friendly confines of the Hodge Center. In two games this season, the Spartans average 74 points while shooting over 51 percent from the field. Comparatively, Upstate scores a little more than 49 points per game and shoots 35.7 percent from the field on the road. Upstate has dished out 35 assists at home, an average of 17.5 per game in two outings, while dishing out just 48 in five games on the road for an average of 9.6 per contest.

Schneiders Tops The A-Sun
No doubt about it, Nick Schneiders is the main shot-blocking threat for Upstate. He leads Upstate, and the A-Sun, with 19 blocks on the year, averaging 2.7 per game. Caleb Palkert is second on the team with four blocks, while Chalmers Rogers has swatted three.

An Offensive Explosion
Not only did Upstate score a season-high 78 points in the 22-point win over Stetson on Nov. 30, the Spartans turned in an offensive performance unmatched for a number of years. The Spartans shot a torrid 61.2 percent from the floor, reaching 60 percent from the floor for the first time since defeating Edward Waters, 92-80, on Dec. 14, 2002, head coach Eddie Payne's first season at the helm of the Upstate program. The Spartans also scorched the nets from downtown, hitting 8-of-12, or 66.7 percent, from behind the three-point arc, marking a Division I-era high. The Spartans also dished out a season-high 19 assists.

Schneiders Records Double-Double & Career High
Upstate's 7-3 center Nick Schneiders turned in quite a performance in Upstate's home opener against UNC Greensboro. He finished the game with a career-high 23 points and tallied his third career double-double with 12 rebounds, one off of his career high. He has had a double-double in each of his last two seasons, tallying 10 points and 11 rebounds against Campbell on Jan. 24 last year, while recording his first double-double with 13 points and 10 boards against Mercer late in the 2007-08 season. All three of his double-doubles have come at home in the Hodge Center.

Hitting The Offensive Glass
Of Upstate's 220 rebounds on the season, 69 of the boards, or nearly one-third, have come on the offensive glass. Nick Schneiders leads the way for the Spartans. He has grabbed 19 offensive rebounds, accounting for 37 percent of his total rebounds of 51 on the season.