Spartans Return Home, Halt Roadrunners 88-77
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Box Score (PDF)
SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The USC Upstate men's basketball team used an early 18-0 run Saturday afternoon to create a double-digit lead and cruise past the University of Texas San Antonio 88-77 in the Hodge Center in non-conference action.
The Spartans (4-5) manage a split in the season series with the Roadrunners (3-6) who have now lost five straight games. Upstate bounces back from a road loss at Kansas State and wins its 10th straight game in the Hodge Center.
"We played really good basketball tonight for about 35 minutes," said Head Coach Eddie Payne following the victory. "The first half was an exceptional defensive and shooting performance."
UTSA seemed to be in control early, knocking down back-to-back three pointers to open the contest and leading 6-0, but the Spartans answered and went on their biggest of the season. Fueled by 11 points from Torrey Craig, including the first eight of the game, Upstate scored 18 unanswered points capped by a three-pointer from Ty Greene to create the first double-digit lead of the game and give the Spartans an 18-6 advantage.
The lead continued to grow and reached as many as 21 points twice in the opening period when Greene drilled two of his four first-half treys, the final of which sent Upstate to intermission with a 43-22 lead.
"We have been hammering these guys about little things on the defensive end and they really responded," Payne said. "When you are playing well offensively it starts on the defensive end."
UTSA opened the second half on a 10-2 run to cut the Upstate lead to 13 with 16:46 remaining, but as they did all afternoon, the Spartans answered the call and quickly extended the lead to 23 points on a perfect entry pass by Adrian Rodgers and layup from Ricardo Glenn.
The Upstate advantage reached a game-high 26 points when Mario Blessing hit one of a season-high 12 three-pointers for the Spartans with 8:38 remaining to make it a 26-point lead at 70-44.
The Roadrunners would claw back over the next six minutes and eventually cut the deficit to just eight points on an offensive rebound and layup from Edrico McGregor with 45 seconds remaining, but Craig sealed the game with four straight free throws in the final 29 seconds to give Upstate an 88-77 victory.
Craig's perfection from the charity stripe in the final seconds sent the junior to a career game, finishing with a career-high 31 points and adding six rebounds. An 11-for-14 stint from the free throw line and 9-for-15 shooting from the field sparked the 31-point effort.
Greene also set a career mark, tying a career-high in three-pointers made with a 5-for-6 performance from long range for 15 points. The defending A-Sun Freshman of the Year added a game-high and season-high five assists in the victory.
"Ty (Greene) really played well and played within himself," Payne said. "When he had looks in space he knocked them down so it was great to see him break out of it a little bit."
Rodgers chipped in a quiet 15 points on 4-for-6 shooting for the field to round out the Upstate players in double figures. All nine players in the box score finished with at least one field goal for the Spartans who shot 61 percent from the floor and 57 percent from behind the arc.
The Spartans will have their longest break of the season before returning to action Monday, Dec. 17 at Baylor University. Tip-off against the Bears is slated for 8 p.m. EST in the Ferrell Center.