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SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Head women's basketball coach Tammy George picked up her 100th win at USC Upstate Monday evening as the Spartans used a second half surge to defeat Atlantic Sun Conference opponent Lipscomb 78-62 inside the Hodge Center.
The Spartans led by 11 with 6:33 to go in the opening frame, when Lipscomb came alive. The two teams exchanged points for a few minutes and LU cut the Upstate lead to nine with 3:39 on the clock. The Bisons then hit back-to-back three-pointers, putting the score at 30-27 with 2:45 to go until the break. A few plays later, LU's Hannah Phillips knocked down a pair of free throws to pull the Bisons within one with 38 seconds until the half. A missed Spartan jumper with 11 seconds on the clock resulted in a Lipscomb rebound by Shanice Burnette. With three ticks left, Burnette drained a three from the top of the key, giving Lipscomb a 34-32 advantage at halftime.
The Bisons started the second half strong, pushing their lead to 37-32 off of a jumper and free throw. However, the five-point lead would prove to be the largest for LU as the Spartans rattled off a 13-0 run, taking a 47-39 lead with 12:03 to play. Lipscomb managed to cut the deficit to six points off of a layup from Jess Reece with just under 10 minutes to go.
Upstate then strung together a 10-3 run to push the score to 60-47 with 7:38 to play. The Bisons knocked down free throws to hang in there, but the Spartans hit a few freebies of their own along with a few jumpers, surging past LU. Upstate took a 20-point 78-58 lead with just over a minute left on the clock. Lipscomb managed to chip that down to 16 off of a jumper and a pair of free throws as the Spartans claimed the 78-62 victory.
"It was a great team win tonight," George said. "We had lots of energy in the second half and we were able to create some offense from our defensive play."
The Spartans improve to 9-3 against Lipscomb in the all-time series and 6-0 at home. Upstate split the season series with the Bisons as LU claimed a 57-56 victory at the buzzer Jan. 7 in Nashville, Tenn. On the season, the Spartans move to 9-13 with the win and 5-6 in the A-Sun, while Lipscomb slips to 2-19 and 1-10 in the A-Sun.
Senior Tee'Ara Copney (Asheville, N.C.) led the Spartans with 21 points, marking her fifth-straight double-digit scoring effort and sixth 20-point outing this season. She netted three treys on the night to go along with five rebounds, three assists and one steal.
Upstate freshman Tweety Hawkins (Madison, Ga.) flirted with a double-double, posting 15 points and handing out a career-high eight assists, while also snagging three boards and swiping two steals. The 15 points ties Hawkins' career-best, which she recorded at Lipscomb Jan. 7. Her classmate Brittany Clency (Greensboro, N.C.) also tallied a career-high 15 points, passing her previous personal-best of 14 points against Stetson Jan. 12.
"I feel like I'm very creative on the court, so if I can create plays and get my teammates open looks then I'll do that," Hawkins said. "We just have to come back out, play harder, play smarter and play more as a unit."
Freshman center Brittany Starling (Sumter, S.C.) also toyed with a double-double for the Spartans, collecting a game-high 11 boards and putting up nine points. Upstate sophomore Shelby Hicks (Greeneville, Tenn.) turned in a solid performance, grabbing nine rebounds and scoring seven points.
Senior point guard Tyra Smith (Lawrenceville, Ga.) helped the Spartan effort on the night, tallying eight points and dishing out six assists. The Spartans recorded 21 assists on the night, the most in any game all season.
Lipscomb was led by Hannah Phillips, putting up a game-best 24 points. She recorded the majority of her points at the line, going 14-for-16 at the charity stripe. Alex Banks was second on the team, registering 14 points to go along with six rebounds. Burnette collected a team-high seven boards, while Presley Stastny gave out a team-best five assists.
The Spartans shot 51.7 percent from the floor, while shooting 42.9 percent from long range. The Spartans improved to 5-0 when shooting 50.0 percent or better this season. Lipscomb struggled from the floor, recording a 32.7 field goal percentage and shooting 22.7 from behind the arc. However, LU was much better at the line than the Spartans, connecting on 21-of-26 attempts for an 80.8 free throw percentage. Upstate posted a 62.5 percentage (10-for-16) from the charity stripe for its worst free throw percentage since recording an identical mark at Northern Kentucky Jan. 5.
Upstate won the battle of the boards 40-33, improving to 6-2 when outrebounding opponents. The Spartans outscored the Bisons in the paint 32-16, while winning the contest of second chances 10-9. The Upstate bench bested the LU bench 36-6.
The Spartans return action Saturday, Feb. 9, traveling to Florida Gulf Coast University for a 7:30 tip-off on ESPN3. Follow Upstate women's basketball this season on your mobile device, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.