Huge Game At The Hodge
SPARTANBURG, S.C. - Thursday night's game at the Hodge Center is the most significant in the venerable 37-year old building's three years of Division I action. FGCU can clinch a piece of its second straight A-Sun regular season title with a win in the 7 p.m. game. The USC Upstate women's basketball team needs a bracket-busting win to keep their hopes of a WNIT bid alive. What better way to kick off the final weekend in the old Hodge Center before $4 million in renovations are set to start in early March?
USC Upstate (18-9 overall, 12-6 A-Sun) was dealt a blow to those postseason hopes when ETSU handed the Spartans an 87-61 defeat in the team's road finale, but that can't diminish the hopes of the upset-minded Spartans on Thursday night, as Upstate has won 12 of its last 15 games and it has beaten all nine other A-Sun teams except FGCU, during that stretch.
FGCU (22-5 overall, 17-2 A-Sun) has rebounded from a 57-56 loss to UNF on Feb. 13 to win its next two games. The Eagles need to beat Upstate to keep pace with ETSU at the top of the A-Sun.
• The Spartans are 5-6 all-time on Feb. 25, last falling at Campbell, 62-47, in 2008.
• Junior Chelsea McMillan is currently fifth in school history with 293 rebounds this season ... She is seven rebounds from becoming the fourth player in school history to reach 300 in a year.
• Junior Chelsea McMillan is just one blocks away from becoming the second player in school history to block 50 shots in a season, where she would join Yakeeshia Ross (2002-06), who did it twice.
• Junior Chelsea McMillan is currently ninth in school history with 518 career rebounds ... She needs two rebounds to move into eighth.
• Freshman Tee'Ara Copney leads all A-Sun freshman with her 11.0 scoring average and her 2.31 steals per game.
• Freshman Tee'Ara Copney has 63 steals on the season, the third-most in Upstate's freshman record book.
• Freshman Tee'Ara Copney is four points shy of becoming the eighth freshman to reach 300 points.
• Junior Chelsea McMillan is six points away from becoming the 25th player in school history to reach 400 points and the second in the D-I era to do so.
One of the best provisional programs in the history of Division I basketball, Florida Gulf Coast is in its third year of its four-year provisional status and the Eagles have already made two trips to the WNIT and wrapped up one A-Sun regular-season title.
The Eagles (22-5 overall, 17-2 A-Sun) are on the brink of tying for at least their second A-Sun title, needing to beat USC Upstate to ensure the title.
The Eagles are led by Adrianne McNally, who averages 12.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. Chelsea Lyles adds 12.5 points per game and 5.4 rebounds and Shannon Murphy adds 11.3 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. Four other average at least seven points per game.
The Eagles are coming off a 67-46 win over Belmont on Saturday. Murphy led the Eagles with 17 points, hitting four 3-pointers to lead a group of four finishing in double figures.
USC Upstate reached a mark with its 76-74 win over Campbell on Feb. 20 that it hasn't in 15 years, as it won its 18th game. The Spartans, who have had just three winning seasons in the last 15 years, joined an exclusive group of just five other teams in the program's 36-year history to have won 18 games. The team is guaranteed to finish the season with the highest winning percentage since the 1994-95 team went 25-6.
Once again, the Spartans have made some marked improvements during their third year of D-I play. The team's .692 winning percentage entering the weekend was tied for 63rd in the NCAA and it stands third among reclassifying institutions (behind 22-5 FGCU and 19-6 Central Arkansas, who is in its last year of reclassification). Upstate finished 2008-09 ranked 206th with a .448 winning percentage and their first season in D-I, the Spartans finished 318th in the category at .176. The teams RPI has jumped, too, from 321st in 2007-08 to 242nd in 2008-09 to 182nd at the beginning of this week.
Junior Chelsea McMillan is second in the A-Sun in rebounding, averaging 10.9 boards per game. Currently, that average is the fourth-best in school history and the 18th-best in A-Sun history. Her 293 rebounds on the season have also moved her into fifth in school history, just seven rebounds away from becoming the fourth player in school history and the 24th in A-Sun history to record 300 in school history. McMillan has also moved into the top 10 in school history in career rebounds, with her 518 career rebounds currently ninth in school history.
Junior Chelsea McMillan is six points away from becoming the 25th player in school history and the second in the D-I era to reach 400 career points. McMillan, who is averaging 14.6 points per game, could join current teammate Courtney Hawkins in the 400-point club. Hawkins scored 477 as a sophomore in 2007-08. McMillan is also one point away from becoming the 17th in school history to reach 750 in a career.
Upstate needs four blocks in its last two games to become the third team in program history to reach 100 in a season. Junior Chelsea McMillan has led the way with 49 rejections on the season and freshman Lauren McRoberts has contributed 14 blocks. The Spartans are on the verge of reaching 100 blocks for the second straight year for the first time in school history, as the 2008-09 team set a program record with 114 blocks.
Rejected (The Season)
Junior Chelsea McMillan is currently third on the school's single-season chart with 49 blocked shots, as she leaped two slots with her four blocks against Lipscomb on Feb. 11. She is one of four players in school history to post 30 blocked shots in two seasons, joining Yakeeshia Ross, Tammy Smith and Carla Gambrell and she joined Ross as the only players in school history to reach 40 blocks twice with her four rejections against Jacksonville. In the last 16 games, McMillan has posted 37 blocks, which has helped her move into second in the A-Sun in the category at 1.81 per game.
Sophomore Kendra Wallace keeps moving up Upstate's all-time 3-pointers list, as the Hurricane, W.Va., is third in school history in the category, having connected from long range 128 times in her career. After hitting 72 treys as a freshman, Wallace has moved up five slots in school history this year, passingCourtney Bradley, Hawkins, Stephanie Dacus, Shannon Pallardy and Sarah Janson. She is now 41 treys away from the school-record of 169 set by Stephanie Feyes from 2001-05.
They're All Thieves
The Spartans lead the A-Sun in steals per game, as they are the only squad in the league to average more than 10.0 thefts per game, entering Monday with an average of 12.30 per contest. Entering the weekend, Upstate was tied for eighth in the nation. The team is led by a guard duo in the top 15 in the league in the category, as freshman Tee'Ara Copney is second at 2.33 per game and sophomore Lesley Daniel is 15th (1.55). But those two aren't the only ones doing the stealing, as six others are also averaging at least a theft per game. Junior Sharniece Wadelington (1.48), senior Courtney Hawkins (1.46), junior Chelsea McMillan(1.52), freshman Lauren McRoberts (1.15), sophomore Kendra Wallace (1.04) and senior Koko Richardson(1.07) also contribute heavily to the Spartans' Robin Hood antics.
Fresh Into The Rankings
Freshman Tee'Ara Copney, thanks to 52 points in two games in Jacksonville, leaped into the top 25 in the A-Sun in scoring. Now, the rookie from Asheville, N.C., has swept in to become the top scoring freshman in the A-Sun, passing Campbell's Tonisha Baker after her second 23-point game against Jacksonville on Feb. 1. Copney, at 11.0 points per game, is 1.7 points ahead of Baker, who averages 9.3 points. Copney also leads all freshmen in steals, averaging 2.33 steals per game. Copney has even better during A-Sun play, as she stands 10th overall and first among freshman with her 12.4 points per game and she is adding 2.39 steals per game, which is second in A-Sun play.