Spartanburg Sports Report

Upstate powers past Kennesaw State; Lady Spartans fall in overtime

It turned out to be a literal tale of two halves on Saturday afternoon as the USC Upstate Spartans hosted the Kennesaw State Owls in a crucial Atlantic Sun showdown at the G.B Hodge Center.

During the first half, Upstate got some great looks at the basket from close range, but had a hard time getting those shots to fall.  When the second half arrived, USC-Upstate came alive and walked away with a 79-73 win over Kennesaw State.

Upstate sophomore guard Mike Cunningham stepped back and drained a 16-foot fade-away jumper from the left baseline to put Upstate ahead 45-44 with just under 12 minutes to play.  Cunningham scored 16 of his game-high 22 points in the second half.

“It was a really big game, coming off our loss to Lipscomb (on Wednesday),” Cunningham said. “My teammates were driving and kicking out, so they were finding me in great spots.  All you have to do from there is step in and hit the shot.”

Phillip Whittington also came up big for the Spartans off the bench.  He knocked a couple of crucial shots with less than five minutes to go in the contest that helped push Upstate’s lead to two possessions as Kennesaw State tried to make a late charge.  The sophomore from Columbus, Georgia finished with 19 points and seven rebounds to his credit.

“I think we overcame ourselves tonight,” Upstate head coach Eddie Payne stated.  “We shot 60 percent in the second half and had much better ball movement.  We were also much better defensively in the second half.  If you lose one game like that, you can fall behind because everyone is competitive.  I thought that was a big win for us to close out the first half of the conference season.”

Josh Cuthbertson had 10 points for Upstate, followed by Ramel Thompkins with eight points and 11 rebounds.  Kennesaw State was led by Nick Masterson (14 points), Aubrey Williams (12 points, 10 rebounds), and Kendrick Ray (10 points).

Upstate (15-9, 5-2 A-Sun) has a quick turnaround as Lipscomb rolls into Spartanburg on Monday, January 30th.  Tipoff is set for 7 PM at the G.B. Hodge Center.

WOMEN – Kennesaw State 79, USC-Upstate 71 (Overtime)

Trailing by single digits for a good portion of the game, the Lady Spartans fought back and tied the game at 60 with 90 seconds left in regulation.  A chance for Upstate to take the lead at the charity stripe with 1.7 seconds left came up empty.

In the extra frame, Kennesaw State’s Deandrea Sawyers scored 15 points and guided the Lady Owls to their third win in Atlantic Sun play.  Sawyers finished with a game-high 29 points.

“It’s a heart breaker,” Lady Spartans head coach Tammy George remarked. “We had our opportunities and we didn’t get it done. It’s been our struggle all year long. We have some good quarters, but we can’t finish games.”

Four players finished in double-figures for Upstate, led by Brittney Delva and Tamera Thorpe with 14 points apiece. DeNisha Swain had 13, followed by Raven Jefferson with 12.

USC-Upstate (8-13, 1-5 A-Sun) will next go on a two-game road trip to Lipscomb (February 2nd) and Kennesaw State (February 6th).