FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Katie Parker, email@example.com
SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The USC Upstate women's basketball team (8-12, 4-5 A-Sun) continues its four-game homestand Saturday, hosting Atlantic Sun Conference newcomer Northern Kentucky (7-11, 4-5 A-Sun) for a 2:03 p.m. EST tip-off on ESPN3 as the Spartans look to extend their winning-streak to four games.
This will be just the second meeting between Northern Kentucky and Upstate. The Norse claimed a 70-62 victory over the Spartans Jan. 5 at NKU.
Upstate and Northern Kentucky are tied for fifth place in the A-Sun standings at 4-5 in conference play. The Norse are 7-11 overall this season and 1-9 on the road, while the Spartans are 8-12 overall and 5-5 inside the Hodge Center.
On the season, the Norse are led by Kayla Thacker and Tiara Hopper, averaging 11.1 and 10.1 points per game, respectively. Thacker ranks 11th in the A-Sun in scoring average, while Hopper is 17th. Tee'Ara Copney paces the Spartans with 13.3 points a contest to rank fourth in the league statistics, while Upstate freshman Brittany Starling is 23rd in the conference with 9.1 points an outing.
Hopper leads NKU on the boards, grabbing 5.8 rebounds a game, while Thacker is second on the squad, pulling down 5.2 per contest. Hopper is 15th in the A-Sun in rebounding, while Starling leads Upstate with 5.6 boards a game to claim 17th in the league.
The Norse are third in the A-Sun with a -2.6 scoring margin, while the Spartans are fifth with a -6.8 scoring margin. However it should be a close one inside the Hodge Center Saturday as Upstate is fifth in scoring offense, averaging 59.8 points per game, while NKU is seventh, recording 59.4 points a contest.
If the game comes down to free throws, the Spartans should hold the advantage as they are 80.1 percent from the charity stripe in conference only play for first place, compared to NKU's 71.7 percent for fourth. In all games this season, Upstate is second in the league with a 74.7 free throw percentage, while the Norse are fifth, shooting 70.0 percent from the line.
In Northern Kentucky's last outing, the Norse dropped a 77-67 decision at home to Mercer Monday. NKU had a trio of scorers reach double-figures as Hopper led the way with the only double-double of game. She tallied a game-best 22 points and collected a game-high 10 rebounds. Jaimie Hamlet added 14 points, while Kayla Gayheart posted 11 points.
SPARTAN QUICK HITS
• Upstate claimed a 64-52 win over North Florida Monday for its third-straight win and second of its current four-game homestand. The three-game winning streak is the longest for the Spartans this season as they recorded back-to-back wins against Western Carolina Nov. 27 and UNC Asheville Dec. 3. Upstate is averaging 65.7 points a game during its three-game streak and beating opponents by a margin of 13.3 points.
• In addition to the Spartans looking for their fourth consecutive victory Saturday against Northern Kentucky, head coach Tammy George looks to pick up her 100th win at Upstate. She has coached the Spartans to 99 wins in eight years, becoming the winningest coach in program history during the 2010-11 season.
• Brittany Starling was named the A-Sun Newcomer of the Week Tuesday after turning in back-to-back double-doubles in a pair of Spartan victories. In two games, the freshman center averaged 20.0 points per game and 13.5 rebounds an outing. She pulled down a career-high 15 boards against Jacksonville Saturday and tallied a career-best 21 points against North Florida Monday.
• Over the last three games, Starling is averaging 15.0 points per game and snagging 11.7 rebounds an outing. She leads Upstate on the boards this season, pulling down 5.6 rebounds per game to rank 17th in the A-Sun. She is second on the team for Upstate in scoring and leads all newcomers, averaging 9.1 points per game. Starling climbed to second in the conference with a 51.1 field goal percentage, leading all A-Sun freshmen.
• Tyra Smith handed out a season-high eight assists in the 64-52 win over North Florida. She is averaging 5.7 assists over the last three games for Upstate. Smith is currently fourth in the A-Sun, dishing out 4.0 helpers a contest.
• The Spartans shot a staggering 58.1 percent from the floor against UNF Monday, marking the highest field goal percentage recorded by any team in the A-Sun this season.
• Tee'Ara Copney is pacing Upstate during its three-game win-streak, averaging 19.0 points per game. She tallied 21 points against Kennesaw State Jan. 21, 13 points against Jacksonville Jan. 26 and tied her season-best 23 points against UNF Monday.
• After setting the Upstate career record in steals earlier this season, Copney currently ranks second in the league in steals per game, averaging 2.6 a contest. She is 90th in the NCAA stats.
• Upstate tops the Atlantic Sun in defensive rebounds, snagging 26.6 defensive boards per game. The Spartans are third in the conference in field goal percentage, shooting 41.8 percent from the floor, while ranking 80th in the NCAA national statistical rankings.
Fans can watch the action as the contest is broadcasted nationally on ESPN3 or follow along on Live Stats. Join in the conversation on Twitter at #UpstateWBB. Follow Upstate women's basketball this season on your mobile device, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.