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College Basketball

Spartans Beat Longwood For First Big South Win

The USC Upstate Spartans have faced a lot of adversity since conference play got underway. They entered play Wednesday night at 0-3 in conference after they opened Big South play with a tough test on the road against league-favorite UNC Asheville, dropped a heartbreaker in the final seconds against Winthrop, and saw Charleston Southern shoot over 60% in the 2nd half to come back and knock them off this past Saturday. 

 

It can’t be understated that Upstate really needed a win in the worst way as they hosted the Longwood Lancers Wednesday night at the Hodge Center. That is not to say the Spartans are down. They have had their moments all season long up to this point where they have shown who they really are – such as the wins over East Carolina and North Carolina Central, the close loss to Davidson, etc. But as Coach Dave Dickerson kept harkening back to in his post game press conference, they have had plenty of the opposite as well – moments where they were “not USC Upstate basketball”. 

 

 Wednesday night’s game against Longwood was no exception to that. 

 

The Spartans got off to what was probably their ugliest start to a game this season, which against a team as good as Longwood that forces a lot of turnovers, scores off of them, and limits their opposition to an average of around 54 points per game, can land you in a deep hole quickly. 

 

USC Upstate started the game just 1 of their first 6 from the field and turned the ball over 3 times, leading to 3 points for Longwood, who also got off to a sluggish start thanks to the Spartans forcing 4 turnovers of their own. At the first media timeout, the Lancers led 7-2. 

 

Fortunes improved significantly heading to the under 12 of the first half, as the Spartans finally managed to get in gear – thanks in large part to Justin Bailey. At the 10:28 mark of the first half, Bailey snapped a nearly 2 and a half minute scoreless streak to cut the deficit to 4 on a pull up jumper from just inside the right wing. He would follow it up with back to back threes spanning nearly a minute apart from each other that helped keep the Spartans in the game – and at the next media timeout, they trailed by just 1 point. 

 

Longwood went on to open the lead back up to 8 by the under 4 and took a 38-29 lead to the half, which ended on a nice jumper from the top of the key that was just inside the arch by Nick Alves. 

 

Despite the huge shot from Alves to go to the break, the Lancers once again opened up a double digit lead, building their largest advantage of the night at 14 points at the 15:37 mark of the 2nd period. 

 

At that point, to the casual observer or fan in the stands, it felt like the game was out of hand. But, enter the leadership of Justin Bailey. 

 

Coach Dickerson stated in his press conference that Justin, who Dickerson touted as a much-needed voice of leadership as a team captain in the moment, stood up in the locker room during the half and said a simple yet powerful couple of sentences. 

 

 “We’re not losing this game! Just remember that. We’re NOT losing this game!”

 

The Spartans chipped away at the Lancers over the final 16:36, finally pulling within striking distance with 4:39 to play in the game on a huge jumper for 3 from Miguel Ayesa that cut it to a 66-62 game. 

 

Ayesa struck again to pull it to a 1 point affair with another clutch trey ball on a jump shot with 3:05 to play. From there the 2 sides traded baskets until Trae Broadnax tied it at 71 on a layup with 44 seconds on the clock. After an empty possession by the Lancers, Upstate got the ball back with 13 seconds to play. What happened next could be the moment that changed the trajectory of the entire season. 

 

Trae Broadnax missed a layup with :02 left up and over the rim, where it was tipped up by Ahmir Langlais – going in to give the Spartans the lead with 1.5 ticks on the clock. The Lancers would heave up a desperation shot from just shy of half court that fell short, sealing the Spartans first Big South Conference win of the season and completing one of the most dramatic comebacks you will ever see. 

 

“We did not call a timeout at the end when we got that big stop. That was a big thing to get Trae (Broadnax) downhill. We wanted to get him downhill to his right and we ran a zero look to get him there. We knew Ahmir (Langlais) was going right behind him. So if Trae missed it, we knew Ahmir had a good chance of getting it. It worked really well”, said Dickerson of the critical play that gave the Spartans the lead. 

 

“The last 10 minutes of the game were amazing. We were down by 14 and our guys didn’t blink at all. They just stayed with it and chipped away. Floyd Rideau, Ahmir Langlais, Nick Alves, Justin Bailey, and Trae Broadnax really played well together. We needed a win like this and we needed a win like this in front of our own fans to get the confidence back in this program”, said Dave Dickerson of his team’s effort down the stretch. 

 

The Spartans were led by the duo of Justin Bailey and Trae Broadnax, who both logged 16 points. For Broadnax, this marked his 4th straight game in double figures, as he added 8 assists and 6 rebounds to his line. Bailey also had 3 rebounds, an assist, and a block. Ahmir Langlais and Miguel Ayesa also put up double digits, with Langlais scoring 13 to go with his 4 assists and Ayesa tallying 11 points with 2 rebounds and a steal. 

 

“We talked about it in timeouts. We needed our all-conference guys to be all-conference. Those 2 guys (Broadnax and Bailey) were 2nd team all conference in preseason. We needed those guys to step up the way they did. With them stepping up tonight, it helped the confidence of the team”, said Dickerson.

 

With the 73-71 win, Upstate improved to 6-11 overall and 1-3 in the Big South, with a tough stretch coming up starting with a road trip to Radford Saturday and followed with a home game Wednesday against High Point, and then back to back road games at Gardner-Webb and Presbyterian. 

 

Difficult as that stretch may be, Coach Dickerson has confidence that after tonight, Upstate can still figure out what they need to do to be more consistent and climb back into the Big South standings. 

 

“The first 30 minutes of the game were not Upstate basketball. We have to get to a point where we play Upstate basketball for 40 minutes rather than 10 minutes. We need to figure out what happened there as a coaching staff. I hope we can continue to defend like we did down the stretch because we are going to need to be that team come Saturday at Radford. Hopefully this win will help us coach better, help the players listen better to where we can play that brand of basketball that we played in the last 10 minutes for a full 40 and give ourselves an advantage to continue to get wins in this league. The Big South didn’t do us any favors. But, every team in the league is good. You just have to play and think your best basketball. If we can do that consistently, we’re gonna have a chance to win a lot of games in this league.” 

 

The Spartans will aim to make it 2 in a row in the league Saturday as they tip off in the Dedmon Center at 2:00 PM.



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