Twenty! Upstate Downs Stetson, 88-72
SPARTANBURG, S.C. - On Senior Day, the USC Upstate women's basketball team was led by its senior pair, Courtney Hawkins (Greer, S.C./Greer) and Koko Richardson (Mary Esther, Fla./Santa Fe C.C.), as they combined for 29 points to lead Upstate to its first 20-win season since 1994-95, clinching the mark with an 88-72 win over Stetson in the regular-season finale on Saturday at the G.B. Hodge Center.
"It was a little harder than I wanted it to be," Upstate head coach Tammy Georgesaid, "but we did finally get control of it. It was nice to go out with a bang. Every night you have to come to play, and we finally woke up and did play. We'll take it. It was nice to get to 20 wins and now we'll wait to see what happens with the WNIT."
Hawkins, playing the final game in her four-year career at the Hodge Center, had one of her most balanced of the season, finishing with 17 points, four rebounds, two 3-pointers and five assists, helping Upstate (20-9 overall, 14-6 A-Sun) take control of the game in the first half with 15 points. Richardson posted 12 points and four rebounds.
"I'm proud to be part of the team because last year we had a tough time and the year before that, we came into Division I," Richardson said. "Everybody underestimated us because we are a young team. We only have two seniors. I'm proud to be on this team, to accomplish some history."
"This year was a special year," Hawkins added. "We finally got 20 wins, so it's a big accomplishment for us. Everybody has stepped up. We came to play. It's been different because we all really want to win. We want to establish something big."
The teams fought back and forth early, but back-to-back 3-pointers from sophomore Lesley Daniel(Collinwood, Tenn./Collinwood) helped the Spartans open up a 26-19 lead with 9:55 left in the first half. The Hatters (6-23 overall, 6-14 A-Sun) cut the lead to two points three minutes later, but Hawkins answered with a jumper in the lane and freshman Tee'Ara Copney (Asheville, N.C./T.C. Roberson) hit a trey with 4:19 left to key an 11-2 Upstate run, that was finished when Copney hit a jumper in the lane, giving Upstate a 39-28 lead with 2:43 left. The Hatters cut the lead to six by halftime, with Upstate taking a 42-36 lead into the locker room.
In the second half, the Hatters stayed close, getting back within six points at 54-48 with 14:01 left, but a jumper off the glass from Richardson was followed by two layups from junior Shadae Thompson (Greenville, S.C./Anderson University), giving Upstate a 60-48 lead. One of Ashli Jackson's four 3-pointers bringed the lead back into single digits, but Stetson could never close back within two possessions.
Upstate, meanwhile, controlled the last six minutes, posting a 17-5 run that helped the team take an 85-65 lead with 2:23 left, helping Upstate take its seniors out to loud ovations, with Richardson leaving the Hodge Center floor with 2:23 left and Hawkins taking her leave at the 2:02 mark.
"It was something you're excited for," Richardson said of her final ovation in front of her parents. "Some people don't have family. To have my family here and my church family, I thank God for it."
Copney finished with 17 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals and both McMillan and Daniel each finished with 12 points. McMillan posted 13 rebounds and a block, despite playing just 23 minutes due to foul trouble, as she finished the regular-season with 15 double-doubles. Daniel added three rebounds and three assists.
Three Hatters finished in double figures, led by 25 points, four 3-pointers and five rebounds from Jackson. Tierra Brown added 17 points, four assists and five rebounds and Natasha Graboski added 10 points, seven rebounds and two assists.
The Spartans will now wait 15 days until Selection Sunday, March 14 to wait to hear if it has earned an at-large bid to the Women's National Invitational Tournament.
• The Spartans are 3-4 all-time on Feb. 27.
• Junior Chelsea McMillan is currently third in school history with 312 rebounds this season.
• Freshman Tee'Ara Copney finished the regular season ninth in school history with 46 3-pointers made.
• Freshman Tee'Ara Copney has 67 steals on the season, tied for second most in Upstate's freshman record book.
• Freshman Tee'Ara Copney finished sixth in the Upstate freshman record book with 335 points.
• USC Upstate beat every team in the A-Sun this season.
• Upstate is 7-0 this season when senior Koko Richardson scored 10 or more points.
• Four players finished in double figures for the Spartans for the ninth time this season and five reached double figures for the third time.
• Upstate is 8-0 this season when scoring 80 or more points.
• With ETSU and Upstate's wins on Saturday, the A-Sun has three 20-win teams, along with 22-6 FGCU, for the fifth time in conference history.