Spartans Drop Heartbreaker to North Florida in the A-Sun Quarterfinals

Spartans Drop Heartbreaker to North Florida in the A-Sun Quarterfinals

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MACON, Ga. – The last quarterfinal of the General Shale Atlantic Sun Conference Women's Basketball Championship came down to the wire Thursday night at Mercer's Hawkins Arena as No. 4 seed USC Upstate (12-18, 8-10 A-Sun) dropped a 50-48 decision to No. 5 seed North Florida (12-18,7-11 A-Sun).

The Spartans held a three-point lead with 3:31 to go in the contest, but a layup from North Florida's Raneisha Lamar cut the Upstate advantage to 46-45. Lamar hit a free throw with 1:50 remaining to knot things up at 46-46, marking the seventh tie of the contest.

With 49 seconds left on the clock, Fabiola Josil hit a three-pointer to give the Ospreys a 49-46 lead. During the following possession the Spartans struggled trying to get a good shot off, missing a three and collecting the rebound to set something else up. Instead of a trey to tie things up, Upstate settled for a layup from Brittany Starling, putting the Spartans down 49-48 with nine seconds left.

Forced to foul, Upstate sent UNF's Ki Conner to the line. Conner hit the front end of the one-and-one, but missed the second. Upstate senior Tyra Smith snagged the miss and with four seconds left the Spartans called their final timeout. With just two seconds on the clock, the Spartans inbounded the ball on the sideline, but couldn't get a good look and fell to the Ospreys 50-48.

The Spartans trailed by as many as six points in the first half at the 13:05 mark, but managed to shake off the tournament jitters and settle down. Upstate hit the defensive boards hard and some timely three balls from senior Hannah Ohl and buckets from Starling helped the Spartans take a 23-20 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Upstate pushed its lead to 25-20 to open the second frame, but UNF responded with back-to-back jumpers to cut the deficit to 25-24 with 18:18 on the clock. The Spartans answered back as a pair of free throws from Starling sparked an 8-0 run. With 14:04 to go in the contest, Upstate held its largest lead of the night at 33-24.

However, the Ospreys had other plans as Conner drained baskets from long distance to put the score at 33-30 with 12:48 left. The teams continued to exchange points the remainder of the contest and neither club took more than a three-point lead for the duration.

Starling led the Spartans on the night, notching her fifth double-double of the season. The rookie tallied a game-high 19 points and grabbed a game-best 10 rebounds. She was a perfect 5-for-5 from the line, while handing out one assist and swiping one steal.

Upstate senior Tee'Ara Copney was second on the team with 10 points, while collecting six boards and dishing out three assists. Sophomore Shelby Hicks was a solid force for the Spartans in the paint, putting up nine points and pulling down six rebounds, while recording one block and two steals. Ohl also tabbed nine points, netting three buckets from behind the arc, while snagging five rebounds. Senior point guard Tyra Smith gave out a game-best eight assists, tying her season-high, while also gathering eight boards.

UNF was led by Conner with 13 points, going 4-for-7 from long range. Josil was second on the team with 12 points to go along with five boards, two assists and two steals. Jadhken Kerr added eight points and a team-high seven rebounds for the Ospreys, while Destinee Smith handed out a team-best five assists.

On the night, Upstate shot 34.6 percent from the floor and 13.6 percent from behind the arc. North Florida was 31.6 percent from the floor and 35.0 percent from three-point range. The Spartans also shot better at the line than the Ospreys, posting an 81.8 free throw percentage, compared to UNF's 63.6 percent at the charity stripe.

North Florida won the battle of the boards in the same fashion it claimed the contest, 50-48. Upstate outscored UNF 22-12 in the paint, while the Ospreys outscored the Spartans 15-11 on points off of turnovers. Upstate recorded 18 turnovers, while North Florida turned the ball over 11 times. The Osprey bench bested the Spartan bench 17-9, while also taking the contest of second chances 8-6.  

Win the win, the No. 5 seed Ospreys advance to take on top-seeded FGCU Saturday at noon.

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