Third-Seeded Spartans Set for Inaugural Appearance in A-Sun Championship
SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The USC Upstate men's basketball team (20-11) will make its first appearance in the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament Thursday night when they face fellow first timer Florida Gulf Coast. Tip-off between the Spartans and the Eagles is set for 8:30 p.m. inside Mercer University's University Center.
The game will air live on ESPN3.com with Matt Stewart and Sonny Smith calling the action.
For those fans that cannot attend Thursday's contest and don't have access to ESPN3, there are other ways you can follow the action from the opening tip to the final horn. Fans can follow the action by visiting ASun.TV or clicking on the live stats link above.
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• Upstate posted a record of 9-5 this season against participants in the 2012 A-Sun Tournament.
• Eddie Payne tallied career win number 400 as the Spartans downed Stetson, 90-72 (Feb. 25).
• Torrey Craig (30 points) and Ty Greene (22) set new career-highs in the Spartans 87-74 win over FGCU (2/23/12). Ricardo Glenn registered a double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds.
• The Spartans sank a D-I era record 15 three-pointers against FGCU. Torrey Craig led the way with eight, while Ty Greene (5), Mario Blessing (1) and Adrian Rodgers (1) also hit triples.
• Upstate trimmed a 14-point deficit at Belmont down to three before falling to the Bruins in Nashville, 88-79 (Feb. 20).
• Ty Greene led the Spartans with 18 points against the Bruins, while Adrian Rodgers (13), Ricardo Glenn (13) and Babatunde Olumuyiwa (11) also reached double-figures.
• Upstate owned the advantage against Belmont in second-chance scoring (11-8) and bench scoring (26-19).
• The Spartans victory over Lipscomb (Feb. 18) was the first-ever for the club against an A-Sun foe in the state of Tennessee. With the win and the ETSU loss at Belmont, the Spartans are assured of a spot in the top-three in the final A-Sun standings.
• Ty Greene scored a game-high 17 points including a step-back three-pointer as time expired to lead Upstate over Lipscomb, 62-61. Greene finished 5-of-10 from the floor and 4-of-8 from beyond the arc.
• Babatunde Olumuyiwa also reached double-figures against the Bison as he tallied 13 points on a 6-for-8 effort from the floor. Meanwhile, Jodd Maxey pulled down a career-high 11 rebounds.
• Torrey Craig is one of 25 finalists for the Lou Henson award that is given annually to the nation's top Mid-Major player. Craig is the only A-Sun player to make the final cut.
• Since a 77-74 (OT) setback at Jacksonville Jan. 16, the Spartans have won 10 of their last 12 contests.
• Four different Spartans reached double-figures as Upstate cruised to a 77-52 win over North Florida (Feb. 13). Adrian Rodgers led the way with 17 points, followed by Torrey Craig (15), Ty Greene (15) and Babatunde Olumuyiwa (10).
• Against the Ospreys, Upstate shot 50.0% from the floor (27-54), 61.5% from beyond the arc (8-13) and 75.0% at the charity stripe (15-20). The Spartans opened the game with nine assists on their first 11 made baskets and the squad finished with 17 assists on 27 made field goals.
A-Sun Coach of the Year: Eddie Payne
On Monday, Feb. 27, 2012, USC Upstate head coach Eddie Payne was named the A-Sun's Coach of the Year after guiding the Spartans to a 20-11 record overall and a 13-5 mark in league play (T-2nd).
Coach Payne and the Spartans currently own the best turnaround in all of Division I with a 15-win improvement compared to the 2010-11 season. Upstate holds a one-game advantage over Manhattan.
The Coach of the Year honor is the second of Coach Payne's career as the 27-year veteran earned Peach Belt Conference Coach of the Year honors following the 2005 season in which the Spartans finished 24-8 and advanced to the NCAA Division II Tournament.
A-Sun Player of the Year: Torrey Craig
Torrey Craig picked up his second-straight end of season accolade as the 2010-11 A-Sun Freshman of the Year was named the conference's Player of the Year (Feb. 27, 2012). Craig becomes the first Upstate player to earn Player of the Year accolades since the 1991-92 season (Ulysses Hackett, Peach Belt Conference POTY).
Craig, who is one of 25 finalists for the Lou Henson Award, finished the 2011-12 regular season at the top of the A-Sun scoring chart with 17.1 points per outing, while ranking second in rebounding with 7.9 rpg. Craig was the only unanimous selection to the league's All-Conference First-Team.
Craig also finished second in defensive rebounds (5.5 drpg), fourth in three-point field goals made per game (2.5 pg), eighth in offense rebounds (2.5 orpg), ninth in blocked shots (1.1), 13th in free throw percentage (.685), 14th in steals (1.3 spg), 14th in three-point field goal percentage (.361).
Craig finished his sophomore campaign with 27 double-digit scoring performances. He surpassed the 20-point plateau 12 times and tallied eight double-doubles. He reached the 30-point mark for the first time in his career with 30 points behind a career-high eight three-pointers in the Spartans' 87-74 win over Florida Gulf Coast (2/23/12). Craig also hit a pair of game-winners this season.
Against Jacksonville State (12/1/11), he sank a jumper in the paint with 18 seconds to play to give the Spartans a 50-48 victory over the Gamecocks. Against Belmont (1/21/12), Craig's put back with 0.7 seconds to play gave the Spartans a 79-78 victory, the first-ever over the Bruins.
A-Sun Freshman of the Year: Ty Greene
Ty Greene was named the A-Sun Freshman of the Year and became the second-straight Spartan and third overall to earn the honor. He was one of three A-Sun rookies to be a unanimous selection to the All-Freshmen Team.
Greene finished his rookie season 17th in scoring with 11.2 points per game. He also ranked near the top of the A-Sun in free throw percentage (5th, .777), three-point field goal percentage (.408), steals (11th, 1.4) and three-point field goals made per game (15th, 1.6)
Greene tallied 18 double-digit scoring efforts on the season and scored 20 or more points five different times. He posted a career-best 22 points and tied a career-high with five three-pointers as the Spartans claimed a 13-point victory over Florida Gulf Coast (2/23/12).
In his collegiate debut, Greene registered a career-best four steals at Arkansas (11/11/11). In Greene's first conference game inside the Hodge Center, the rookie tallied 10 points and dished out a career-high seven assists against Kennesaw State (1/7/12).
Aside from rookie of the year honors, Greene may be most remembered for his buzzer-beating three-pointer from the left wing as the Spartans rallied from a 14-point deficit at Lipscomb (W, 62-61, 2/18/12). Greene's game-winner was the number two play of the day on ESPN's SportsCenter (2/19/12).
With 20 wins on the season, the Spartans become just the second team to post 20 or more wins in their first season of full NCAA D-I eligibility after completing the five-year transition to D-I. Upstate joins North Dakota State as the only two teams to post 20+ wins in first-season of full eligibility. North Dakota State posted 26 wins in its first season of full eligibility (2008-09) and finished first in the Summit League with a 16-2 mark. The Bison advanced to the NCAA Tournament as a 14-seed where they faced 3-seeded Kansas (L, 74-84). NDSU finished the '08-09 season with a 26-7 record.
After posting just five wins in 2010-11, the Upstate men's basketball team has 20 wins this season. The Spartans' 15-game turnaround currently ranks No. 1 in the nation. The Manhattan Jaspers sit just one game back at +14.