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Spartans Rally to Beat Blue Hose

The Upstate Spartans returned home on Wednesday night looking to break a 2 game losing skid and start a new winning streak at “The Hodge”, playing host to the Presbyterian College Blue Hose. Over the course of the last 2 games, the Spartans have been playing with the same tenacity and fierceness that has been a trademark of this team all season long, scoring over 60 points. The issue they have had is fouls – letting games get away from them with fouls and lopsided free throw numbers. That is where the matchup was intriguing, as PC has had the same problem.


Another one of the “little things” that have been a mutual struggle between these 2 in conference rivals is rebounding. Both teams have the tendency not to win the battle on the boards and the Blue Hose have struggled to come up with clutch shots late in games, resulting in a lot of close losses. 


All of that suffices to say that with a rivalry game and both teams needing a win, it was going to be a fun one at the Hodge Center. 


The game got off to an ideal start for the Spartans, as they jumped out to an 8-3 lead heading to the first media timeout and managed to hold it up until the 9:48 mark when the Blue Hose stormed back to tie it at 15. After trading baskets, Presbyterian finally jumped ahead 21-19 with 6:50 to play in the half on a pair of free throws from Owen McCormack and did not look back until late in the 2nd half. 


The story of the game in the first half could be summarized by saying that both teams continued with their foul woes  and lopsided numbers in that category. Not in the kinda lopsided way that the Campbell game went for Upstate, but lopsided in that there were a combined 27 personals called in the first half alone (Oprah meme – “You get a foul! Everybody gets a foul!”) There were 41 of them combined over the course of the game. 


The lopsidedness here came in the free throw shooting itself. Upstate went 7-18 from the stripe in the 1st half. They finished 13-26 (50%) overall. The Blue Hose went 13-17 in the first half and 4-6 in the 2nd to go 17-23 (nearly 74%).


PC had built up as big a lead as 7 in the first half, but despite that, the biggest thing to happen in the 1st half was arguably what swung the game. 


Jordan Gainey stole a pass and broke down the court and quickly got down the court and drained a 3 as the horn sounded to cut the deficit to just 1 for the Spartans at the half. The shot brought a whole renewed energy to the team as they were heading off the court as well as to the students and fans in the arena. 


Asked about it, Dave Dickerson said this — “Their [the crowd] energy and that shot at the end of the end of the first half, really gave us some energy that we needed to win the game. Musta Goodloe went down early in the first half. You know, he’s one of our most important players, and he’s probably out for a bit now. And the guys came back flat after that injury. But that shot at the end of the half by Jordan Gainey really gave us the spark that we needed to go into halftime to regroup.” 


In the 2nd half, the Spartans had a 4:30 stretch where they did not score that allowed the Blue Hose to build up as large as a 12 point lead. 


For all intents and purposes, it seemed as if USC Upstate was dead in the rights. Until Floyd Rideau Jr snapped the scoreless streak with a jump shot for 2 that, while insignificant at the time, may have been the moment the Phoenix was risen from its ashes for the Spartans. 


Upstate went on 2 different runs of 6-0 and 8-1 that brought it back to within 2 possessions. Over the final 3:07 of the game, the Spartans went on a 6-0 run, taking the lead with :55.3 to play on a Jordan Gainey layup for their first lead since the 9:50 mark of the 1st half. 


That lead and the Spartans’ resolve would be put to the test several times over the last :30 — a time span that can only be described as pure and utter insanity. 


Upstate had a chance to salt the game away when Justin Bailey pulled down a defensive rebound and went quickly the other way with it, only to be blocked by Marquis Barnett on a layup. Following the block, Jalen Forrest came up with the board and put up a pullup jumper on the other end that was blocked by Trae Broadnax. 


If that exchange wasn’t batty enough for you, the last 6 ticks of the game were twice as mind blowing. Upstate got a jump ball off the Broadnax block. After yet another Blue Hose timeout, the inbounds pass went loose and nobody could come up with it cleanly as it went out of bounds at the PC bench with 3 seconds to play. After a lengthy review, it was determined to be Presbyterian’s ball. 


The Hose attempted to throw in a long pass that was tipped and went out, ruled a jump ball, with possession initially to Upstate. But after a lengthy visit to the monitor, it was given to the Blue Hose with just 0.3 ticks left – enough time to heave in and try to tip the ball into the hoop. 


The pass was right on the money to the basket where Travon Reddish-Rhone put up a shot that was right on the edge of the rim. It was half an inch from going in, but rolled off the front iron, giving USC Upstate the 61-60 victory. 


In the end, neither team shot very well, with the Blue Hose shooting 33.3% overall (19-57) and just 25% from behind the arch. Credit where it’s due, Upstate also blocked 12 PC shots — the most USCU has had in a single game since 2015. 


The Spartans shot 21 of 44 (47.7%). With all the fouls and the poor shooting at the line on Upstate’s part, it was significant for them to find a way to win a game against an opponent with similar struggles that would make for a close game. It was huge for them to win despite their foul troubles and little mistakes. 


Dave Dickerson was pleased overall with the fight his team showed after Mysta Goodloe had to leave the game with an unknown injury (no official word at this time) and in the 2nd half. 


“I thought in the first half, that [free throw shooting] dug us a hole. And that really took the energy out of the building. But I knew if we got it close, we’d start making them. Trae Broadnax was really good in the second half from the free throw line, and Justin Bailey — you can’t say enough about him and Nick Alves. It’s good to see him play well in front of his fellow student body. If they can play well for us down the stretch, we can win some games.” 


The Spartans, now 9-9 overall and 4-3 in the Big South, were led by Justin Bailey with 16 points on 4 of 7 shooting, including a 3-4 night from 3 point range. Trae Broadnax was the only other Spartan in double figures with 14 points on 5-7 from the field with 5 rebounds and 6 assists. 


Jordan Gainey logged just 8 points on 3-10 shooting, but 5 of his 8 were the biggest points in the game as he gave the Spartans the late lead and made the huge 3 at the half to re-energize his team. Gainey also had 2 steals and 3 blocks. 


Upstate will now set their sights on starting a conference win streak with a trip up to UNC Asheville (14-6, 6-1 BSC) Saturday afternoon. Tipoff is set for 2:00 PM.

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