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MACON, Ga. – The USC Upstate men's basketball team made a statement in the quarterfinal round of the 2013 General Shale Atlantic Sun Championship Thursday evening, knocking off Jacksonville 76-62 inside Hawkins Arena to capture the program's first-ever tournament victory.
The Spartans (16-16) win their second straight game in convincing fashion and advance to the semifinal round of the championship to take on tournament host and top-seeded Mercer. The semifinal contest will be televised regionally on CSS and nationally on ESPN3 with the winner advancing to the championship round on Saturday.
"I thought we continued our good play tonight, said USC Upstate Head Coach Eddie Payne. "I thought we moved the ball well, we defended and we did the things from a game plan prospective that is crucial to our success. I just thought we played a solid basketball game."
Balanced scoring proved to be the difference as Upstate put five players in double-figures, led by a game-high 17 points from Torrey Craig who connected on a three-pointer with 13:51 left in the first half to give Upstate its first double-digit lead of the game at 19-8.
"We've just been playing with a lot of energy and we know how important that is to us to win as a team," said Craig. "Having a losing season really disturbed us so it's kind of our motivation in the tournament."
Ty Greene made his own mark early, scoring 12 points in the first 10 minutes to give the Spartans a 15-point lead at 28-13 with 9:15 left in the opening period.
"We had a lot of guys in double figures and we were just together as a team and it's a great feeling to get a win in this tournament and hopefully we can carry that over into tomorrow," said Greene.
Upstate answered the call over the first 10 minutes of the second half and a Craig fast break dunk on a pass from Jodd Maxey sent the Spartans out to a 21-point lead with 11:48 remaining in the contest. Fred Miller gave Upstate a game-high 25-point advantage with a jumper at the 7:54 mark and the Spartans cruised down the stretch to earn a 76-62 victory and advance in the A-Sun Tournament for the first time in school history.
Babatunde Olumuyiwa got his second straight start and made the most of it, scoring a season-high 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting from the field, while Adrian Rodgers added 11 points and Ricardo Glenn chipped in 12 to round out the five Upstate players in double figures.
The tasks get taller for the Spartans as they turn around and face the A-Sun regular season champions who picked up a convincing victory over Lipscomb Wednesday evening to advance to the semifinals.
"We play in about 19 hours and we play a very good team on their home floor so obviously the challenges are big," Payne said. "But special moments in life come from great challenges, so we're looking forward to it."
Upstate fans interested in attending Friday's semifinal contest against Mercer at 5:30 p.m. can contact Associate Athletic Director David Jandrew at 864-237-7882 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.