Spartans Overcome Cold-Shooting Night to Sink Bucs
SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Mario Blessing (Kusterdingen, Germany) sank a three-pointer with 1:17 to play to put the game away as USC Upstate (13-9, 7-3 Atlantic Sun) rallied past ETSU (10-10, 5-5), 58-54, Friday night in the A-Sun/CSS Game of the Week.
"It was a good win, not a pretty win, but a gutsy one for our ball club," said head coach Eddie Payne. "For the longest time our guys couldn't get over the hump, but they finally did. Our team did a great job tonight controlling the glass and limiting ETSU's second chance opportunities, especially in the second half."
Trailing by six at intermission (26-20), Upstate quickly closed the gap to just three points thanks to a dunk by Jodd Maxey (Statham, Ga.) and a three-pointer by Torrey Craig (Great Falls, S.C.). ETSU's Isiah Brown was able to keep the Spartans from trimming the lead any closer thanks to a lay-up in the paint.
After ETSU's Sheldon Cooley sank one of two free throws, the Bucs took a five point lead with 14:44 to play. Upstate cut the deficit to just two points (32-20) with 13:31 to play on a triple by Blessing. The two point margin was the closest the Spartans were since the 2:45 mark of the first half.
Cooley struck again, this time on a fast break lay-up, as he pushed the lead back to four (36-32) with 11:15 remaining.
The Spartans used a mini 4-0 run to tie the contest at 36 a piece with just under 10 minutes to play in the contest. Craig scored on a fast break slam, while Ty Greene (Knoxville, Tenn.) sank a pair of free throws.
ETSU regained the lead with 9:35 showing on the clock when Cooley connected on a three-pointer, giving ETSU a 39-36 advantage.
The Spartans were able to tie the contest at 41 on a pair of free throws by Maxey with exactly five minutes to play.
Tommy Hubbard pushed the Bucs' lead back to three, 44-41, thanks to a three pointer from the wing with 4:37 on the clock.
Blessing canned a three-pointer with 4:13 to play to tie the contest and Ricardo Glenn (Augusta, Ga.) hit one of two free throws to give Upstate a 45-44 lead with 3:51 left. Glenn's free throw gave the Spartans their first lead since the 6:34 mark of the first half.
Again, ETSU used the three-ball to regain the lead, this time Jarvis Jones connected on a three-pointer to give ETSU a two-point lead, 47-45, with 3:23 to play.
Upstate used a 13-0 spurt over the next 2:50 to put the game away and claim their second straight win over ETSU inside the Hodge Center.
Greene sank a jumper to tie the contest for the sixth and final time and Craig put the Spartans in front, 49-47, with a jumper at the 2:26 mark.
After an offensive rebound by Maxey, Blessing canned a triple to put the game away with just over one minute to play.
Upstate connected on six of its next nine free throw attempts to take an 11-point lead, 58-47, with just 19 seconds to play. The Spartans' 11-point advantage was the largest for either team Friday night.
ETSU's Adam Sollazzo scored seven points in the final 16 seconds to set the final tally at 58-54.
Maxey led a quartet of Spartans in double-figures as the redshirt-sophomore tallied 16 points. Blessing tied a career-high with 11 points, his previous occurrence came at ETSU (1/4/12); Craig and Green also pitched in 11 points each. Meanwhile, Glenn was a force on the glass as the Spartan forward pulled down a career-high 17 rebounds.
ETSU was led by Sheldon Cooley (14 points), Isiah Brown (11) and Adam Sollazzo (11).
The two teams combined to shoot 8-for-40 from beyond the arc as each team tallied four triples in the second half. Upstate finished the contest 19-of-60 from the floor (31.7%), while ETSU finished 22-of-55 (40.0%).
The Spartans out-rebounded the Bucs, 47-37, and held a nine-rebound advantage on the offensive glass (20-11).
In the first half, the two squads battled back and forth until ETUS used an 8-0 run to take a 13-6 lead with 11:00 to play in the first period. The Bucs suffered a five-plus minute drought that allowed Upstate to regain the lead, 14-13, with 6:43 to play. ETSU closed the half on a 13-6 run to take a 26-20 lead into the locker room at intermission.
The Spartans will step out of conference for its next contest as they travel to Jacksonville, Ala., to battle the Jacksonville State Gamecocks Monday evening at 5:15 p.m. (CT).