Spartanburg Sports Report

Upstate stumbles at home against Stetson

Just a few days removed from claiming sole possession of third place in the Atlantic Sun standings, the USC-Upstate Spartans aimed to stay ahead of the pack heading into their Thursday night collision with the Stetson Hatters.

That wouldn’t be the case as a stingy defense allowed Stetson to walk away with a stunning 83-72 win over Upstate at the Hodge Center.

Upstate held the lead twice in the early going, the latter being an 8-5 advantage after Malik Moore converted an old-fashioned three-point play just before the first official timeout of the contest.

On the other side of the break, the Hatters proceeded to go on a 15-3 run, taking a 20-11 lead with 7:58 remaining in the opening half of play.

Defensively, Stetson employed a match-up zone defense that not only clogged the lane and forced Upstate to settle for shots from beyond the arc, but also forced the Spartans to commit 16 turnovers.

“(Their zone) surprised us a little bit,” Upstate head coach Eddie Payne stated. “They’ve almost exclusively played man all year long. They went down there on us (at Stetson last month) for three or four possessions and we ran them out of it. We were stagnant, very stagnant. They controlled the whole game.”

Stetson built up a 20-point lead by the 11:40 mark of the second half, but after a timeout, Upstate pieced together a rally of their own.

The Spartans went on a 12-1 scoring run during that next four minute stretch, cutting the Hatters’ lead to 61-51 after a pair of free throws from Deion Holmes.

Michael Buchanan was one of the bright spots for Upstate, pouring in 21 points and grabbing seven rebounds.  Holmes finished the night with 13 points for the Spartans, followed by Mike Cunningham with 10 points.

“Mike’s done a good job for us,” Payne said about his senior center.  “He’s been fighting some tendinitis in his knees and we’ve cut back his practice minutes. He has performed in games and did so again tonight. We just didn’t get him enough touches in the first half, I thought. Mike Buchanan has produced really well for us this year.”

Stetson also had three players finish in double figures, led by Divine Myles with a game-high 22 points. Derick Newton had 16 points, while Leo Goodman chipped in 11 points off the bench.

With the loss, Upstate (17-12, 7-5 A-Sun) falls back into a tie for third place with North Florida, who defeated Lipscomb on Thursday evening.

It will be a quick turnaround for the Spartans as Florida Gulf Coast pays a visit to Spartanburg on Saturday, February 18th at 2 PM.