Spartans Downed by South Carolina, 57-41
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Despite an outstanding performance by freshman Babatunde Olumuyiwa (Athens, Ga./Clarke Central HS), it was the homestanding Gamecocks that claimed the 57-41 victory on Tuesday night inside the Colonial Life Arena.
Olumuyiwa nearly recorded a triple-double as the first-year Spartan finished with 11 points, nine blocks and seven rebounds. All three statistics were career-highs for the forward, who finished with career-bests of nine points, six rebounds and four blocks two days prior against East Carolina.
Trailing by just two at the half, 24-22, USC Upstate (0-6) saw the South Carolina lead expand to seven at the 15:48 mark when Malik Cooke connected on a jumper in the paint to give the Gamecocks (3-1) a 31-24 lead.
Upstate hit a pair of jumpers in a 53 second span to cut the lead to just three (31-28) with 13:47 remaining in the second half. Tony Dukes (Ellenwood, Ga./Atlanta Metropolitan) and Chalmers Rogers (Fort Mill, S.C./Fort Mill HS) sparked the quick 4-0 run, cutting the deficit to just three.
However, after the Spartans cut the lead to just three, they would encounter a drought of 7:24. The Upstate drought allowed South Carolina to extend its lead from three to 17. The 14-0 run by the Gamecocks set the score at 45-28 with 6:41 remaining.
The Spartan drought ended when Olumuyiwa had a fast-break dunk on an assist from Josh Chavis (Greensboro, N.C./Dudley HS). Down the stretch the Spartans failed to get any closer than 14 points and the Gamecocks finished with the 16-point victory.
The Spartans were failed by the three-point shot for the second consecutive game. The Spartans connected on 3-of-6 attempts in the first half, but went ice cold in the second half as they finished the game 3-for-22.
Aside from Olumuyiwa's 11 points, Rogers and Carter Cook (Clemmons, N.C./Calvary Baptist Day School) finished with seven points each. Cook also finished with six rebounds and three assists, while Rogers collected five rebounds and two steals.
The Spartans and the Gamecocks battled throughout the first half with neither team owning a lead of more than four points until South Carolina took a six point lead (24-18) when Ramon Galloway hit a three pointer from the right wing with 37 seconds remaining in the half.
Upstate closed the half on a 4-0 spurt to set the halftime score at 24-22. Rogers hit a three-pointer from the left corner with 10 seconds remaining in the half. Rogers' trey was his seventh of the season, he had just seven in the entire 2009-10 campaign.
Freshman Marquis Sloan (Greenville, S.C./Greenville HS) picked the pocket of Eric Smith and raced toward the basket in the closing seconds of the first half. Sloan was fouled on a layup attempt with three-tenths of a second remaining and the freshman guard was able to connect on one of his two free throw attempts.
South Carolina's 24 points in the first half and 57 total points were both season lows for the Gamecocks who averaged 84.0 ppg entering Tuesday night's game.
Leaders for the Gamecocks, who now own a 2-0 lead in the series, were Ramon Galloway (12 points, three rebounds, two assists) and Lakeem Jackson (11 points, seven rebounds, four assists).
After six games in 11 days, the Spartans will finally get a break as the team breaks for Thanksgiving. The Spartans will return to action on Monday night when they host UNC Asheville in the home opener with tip-off scheduled for 7:00 p.m.