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KENNESAW, Ga. – With just a one-point lead in the final 2:41, the USC Upstate women's basketball team (6-12, 2-5 A-Sun) played tough to hold on to the win and claim the 61-52 victory on the road at Kennesaw State (4-15, 0-7 A-Sun), snapping a five-game losing-streak.
KSU cut the Spartans' three-point advantage to one off of a layup from Kristina Wells with 2:41 left to play. Upstate responded with a layup from senior Trya Smith (Lawrenceville, Ga.), sparking an 8-0 run with 2:25 on the clock. The Owls couldn't get a jumper to fall on their next possession and Upstate senior Tee'Ara Copney (Asheville, N.C.) gathered the rebound to send things the other direction.
A pass from Spartan freshman Brittany Starling (Sumter, S.C.) found the hands of senior Lauren McRoberts (Carmel, Ind.) and McRoberts netted the open jumper, giving Upstate a 57-52 lead with 1:49 to go. Starling picked-up her fourth personal foul on the next possession, sending Sametria Gideon to the line. Gideon missed the front end of the one-and-one and Starling gathered the rebound for the Spartans.
Upstate used the clock to its advantage and took its time running the offense until Copney had an open drive to the basket, making the layup to push the Spartan lead to seven. Feeling the pressure of the clock ticking away, Kennesaw State forced a layup that didn't go and Starling once again came up with the board. Forced to foul, KSU sent freshman Brittany Clency (Greensboro, N.C.) to the charity stripe for a one-and-one. The rookie missed the free throw and the Owls came up with the rebound.
Down 59-52 with 48 seconds on the clock, Kennesaw State called a timeout to set something up. The Spartans held their ground on defense and didn't give up an easy bucket as KSU threw up a three-pointer with 34 seconds to play. The bucket didn't fall and Copney snagged the rebound for Upstate.
With the Owls looking to foul, the Spartans had two of the top three free throw shooters in the league on the floor. Upstate tried to play keep away as Copney passed the ball to Smith just before the defense reached her. KSU then fouled Smith, who is 83.0 percent at the line on the season. The senior knocked down the pair, putting the Spartans up 61-52 with 27 ticks on the clock. The Owls couldn't get another shot to fall in the remaining seconds and Upstate took the victory.
The Spartans improved to 2-5 in Atlantic Sun Conference play, while KSU remained winless, slipping to 0-7 in league action. The Owls are currently on an eight-game skid. However, the contest was a close one from start to finish with 12 lead changes and things knotted up 10 times.
The Spartans played a solid first half, taking a 32-27 lead into the locker room at the break. Upstate shot 50.0 percent in the first frame, connecting on 15-of-30 from the floor and 2-of-4 from behind the arc. The Spartans also edged the Owls in rebounds in the first half 20-18.
On the night, Upstate shot 47.1 percent from the floor and 37.5 percent from long distance. This marked the best field goal percentage for Upstate since shooting 50.0 percent in a 90-79 win at home against ETSU Jan. 2. The Spartans continued to be strong from the line, going 10-for-13 for 76.9 percent, while KSU was just 56.3 percent from the charity stripe, connecting on 9-of-16.
The Spartans won the battle of the boards 39-30, while also winning the contest of second chances 9-7. KSU outscored Upstate in the paint 32-30, while also outscoring the Spartans 20-13 in points off of turnovers. The Owls turned the ball over 13 times, compared to Upstate's 17 turnovers.
Copney led all scorers on the night, posting 21 points for the Spartans to go along with a team-high eight rebounds, while swiping two steals. Smith recorded 10 points for Upstate, while pulling down four boards and handing out three assists. She was perfect from the line on the night, going 4-for-4. Starling gathered a team-best eight rebounds to go along with five points and a game-high four assists.
Upstate sophomore Shelby Hicks (Greeneville, Tenn.) tallied eight points for the Spartans, while collecting two rebounds. McRoberts also recorded eight points for the Spartans, while grabbing four boards and swatting one blocked shot. Clency helped Upstate, adding six points and six rebounds.
Kennesaw State was led by a trio of players reaching double-figures as Wells led the way with 14 points to go along with six rebounds. Chelsea Mason posted 12 points and snagged six boards, while Ashley Holliday posted 10 points and dished out a team-high four assists. Gideon registered nine points and six rebounds for the Owls, while Chantel Kennedy added seven points and pulled down a game-best nine boards.
The Spartans return to the Hodge Center Jan. 26, hosting Jacksonville for a 2 p.m. tip-off in A-Sun action. Follow Upstate women's basketball this season on your mobile device, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.