FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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SPARTANBURG, S.C. – USC Upstate hits the road to open the 2012-13 season, traveling to Saint Louis University to take on the Billikens Friday, Nov. 9 at Chaifetz Arena. The contest will be the season-opener for both clubs.
The matchup between Upstate and Saint Louis will be the second meeting all-time between the two teams with Saint Louis taking the only contest in 2008. Even with season-openers at Arkansas, Michigan, Nebraska and Georgia over the last four years, head coach Eddie Payne is high on the Billikens. "Playing an Atlantic 10 powerhouse like Saint Louis that is physical and very strong is going to be a challenge and one of the hardest openers we have had."
- The Spartans are winless in their season-openers over the last six years. The last time Upstate opened the year with a victory was in the fall of 2005 when the Spartans knocked off Limestone on the road.
- Torrey Craig needs just 10 points to reach the 1,000 point mark for his career and become the 17th player in school history to achieve the honor. He is currently 18th on the program's all-time scoring list with 990 points after playing in 64 games. The Great Falls, S.C., native scored a career-high 30 points against FGCU on Feb. 23, 2012 and grabbed a career-high 15 rebounds against ETSU on Dec. 5, 2010 in his first A-Sun contest.
- As the defending A-Sun Player of the Year, Craig would be the first repeat winner of the award in 23 years if he manages to capture the honor again in 2012-13. He has two seasons to add another Player of the Year to trophy to his hardware, which would make him one of three players to win the award more than once. Centenary's Willie Jackson holds the league record with three straight Player of the Year honors from 1982-1984.
- Mario Blessing was voted by the fans as the Atlantic Sun Preseason Defensive Player of the Year after manning up against every point guard in the conference as a freshman and tallying 16 steals to go along with 52 rebounds.
- Upstate allowed 68.3 points per game a year ago, while Saint Louis gave up just 57.6 points per contest, a statistic that ranked No. 1 in the Atlantic 10 and 8th in the country, just 4.4 points behind nation-leading Wisconsin.
- While the Billikens ran a stifling defense out every night last season, the offense produced as well, creating a +11.1 scoring margin to lead the Atlantic 10. Upstate's +3.1 scoring margin ranked third in the A-Sun in 2011-12.
- Torrey Craig and Ty Greene carried the offense a year ago, combining to average 27.8 of the team's 71.4 points per game. With Ricardo Glenn and Jodd Maxey nearly averaging 10 points per game, the Spartans will need contribution from the supporting cast to be successful.
- Babatunde Olumuyiwa has blocked 106 shots in his first two years, ranking him third in program history. He is just 31 blocks from the second spot in the record book, while sitting 99 blocks from the top spot held by Nick Schneiders. Olumuyiwa blocked a career-high nine shots at South Carolina on Nov. 23, 2011.
Preseason Picks: The Spartans have been picked to finish second in the Atlantic Sun Conference by the league's head coaches, Lindy's Sports, Athlon sports and College Sports Madness, while Blue Ribbon Basketball Yearbook tabbed Upstate as the favorite to capture the A-Sun title. Saint Louis was also picked second in the Atlantic 10 by the league's preseason poll, while receiving high praise from several national media sources. Lindy's listed the Billikens as the No. 9 team in the country, Blue Ribbon ranked Saint Louis at No. 11, and ESPN's Joe Lunardi predicted SLU as a No. 7 seed in his summer version of "Bracketology."
On the Brink: Saint Louis is currently receiving votes in the Associated Press Top 25 and the USA Today Coaches Poll, while ESPN's 2012-13 Preseason Top 25 have the Billikens rounding out the list. ESPN's Eamonn Brennan says, "This team's unforgiving defense isn't going anywhere." The Spartans are receiving votes as well in the first CollegeInsider.com Top 25 Poll of the year. Upstate received 30 points and is the seventh team receiving votes, sitting just behind Montana, Nevada and George Mason.
Milestone Watch: While Torrey Craig is just 10 points away from the 1,000 mark, he also sits just 21 rebounds from 500 and four assists from 100. Ty Greene needs just 14 points to reach 400 for his career, and he is 19 assists from the century mark. Ricardo Glenn is three rebounds away from 400 and 31 points from 500, while Babatunde Olumuyiwa is 15 points away from 500 and is currently sitting on 250 career rebounds.
Mitchell Sidelined: Saint Louis point guard standout Kwamain Mitchell is sidelined after having surgery to repair a fracture in his foot. The senior was tabbed as a preseason All-Conference pick at the A-10 Media Day Oct. 4, and is coming off third-team All-Conference honors last season after scoring 12.4 points per game and leading the team with 126 assists. He also led the team with 44 steals.
Exhibition Success: In the team's only tune-up for the 2012-13 season, Saint Louis dominated Division II Rockhurst, using four players in double figures to cruise to a 79-47 victory. Mike McCall led all scorers with 14 points, while Cody Ellis and Dwayne Evans scored 12 points apiece and Cory Remekun added 10 points to go along with a game-high seven rebounds.