Spartans Drop Home Game to High Point
The tough run through the Big South slate for USC Upstate continued on Wednesday night as the Spartans hosted the 16-4 (5-0 in conference) High Point University Panthers. Upstate (6-12, 1-4 BSC) entered the night coming off yet another gut-wrenching loss on a buzzer-beating three, falling 64-61 to Radford on the road this past Saturday. Wednesday night, they’d be looking to get off to a quick and competitive start against a new-look High Point squad that is under new leadership.
Alan Huss’ Panthers were the lone team at 5-0 in the league coming into the night – a feat that is paired with his being the lone first-year head coach to have 16+ wins. They have had a lot of success scoring the ball with four averaging in double figures on the season – Duke Miles (12.1 ppg – though Miles was unavailable in this game), Kezza Giffa (14.8), Kimani Hamilton (14.7), and Abdoulaye Thiam (12.1). They shoot threes well – particularly Trae Benham, who set his career-high in points with 21 his last time out – all on 7 made three pointers. They also use their size and speed to smother their opposition in the paint, out rebounding opponents by an average of nearly 10 per game through their first 20 contests.
If USC Upstate was going to get off the schneid and pull the upset, they were going to have to do it by limiting High Point’s offensive rebounds and not giving them good looks from beyond the arch.
For a while, that is exactly what happened. The 2 sides traded baskets for much of the first half, with neither leading by more than 4. High Point did a very good job of taking USC Upstate out of their element, eliminating Justin Bailey from the equation by getting him in early foul trouble.
“It affected us a lot. I don’t know if it really helped High Point. We are the kind of team this year where when our best players are not on the floor or not playing well, it affects us. Justin getting those early fouls and then coming out in the 2nd half and getting that foul on the first possession – that was a tough pill for us to swallow because when he is playing well, we normally have a chance to win. But, give credit to High Point. I love basketball and respect a talented team, and they are very talented”, said Upstate Head Coach Dave Dickerson.
The Panthers also forced the Spartans to take a lot of bad shots from 15+ feet out, keeping them from being able to get any looks in the post. Upstate was able to stay in the game for a while thanks to the Panthers’ inability to finish when they had an open shot in the low post.
The game looked to be turning in Upstate’s favor at the 3:36 mark of the first half when Trae Broadnax tied the game at 31 with a wide open driving layup he created himself by shedding his defender with a perfect fake. However, as the old saying goes, you cannot let a good team get hot.
USC Upstate went ice cold over the final 3:34 of the half, allowing the Panthers to all but put the game away by closing the frame on a 9-0 run.
The 2nd half did not start off any better. Justin Bailey snapped the scoreless streak that carried over through the break at the 19:12 mark with a jumper for 2 from the right side. After that, the Spartans shooters once again went ghost for the next 2 minutes, allowing High Point to go on a 7-2 run to open up a 16 point lead.
From that point on, Upstate could pull no closer than 9 as High Point pulled away for the 78-67 victory to remain unbeaten in Big South play.
“High Point is one of the most talented teams I have seen in this conference in the 6 years I have been here. When I first got here, Winthrop and Radford were special. This team is even better than that. They have length and athleticism. The game boiled down to us not being able to get the basketball. They had 44 rebounds to our 28. Sixteen of those were offensive and 12 of those offensive boards came in the 2nd half. Their size and athleticism bothered us and their 2 best players were great tonight. We defended well enough, we just couldn’t rebound the ball tonight with their size and athleticism and the plays they made at the rim. I thought our zone was really good. We just couldn’t rebound.They have talent. They haven’t lost a game since December. Coach Huss has done a great job of coming in and getting a lot of great players that a lot of teams in the Big South don’t have”, said Coach Dickerson.
Despite the loss in which Upstate shot just 3 for 16 from three point range and were outscored at the free throw line 23-8, there were several bright spots for the Spartans.
The defense was one of them, as Upstate held High Point to just 24 for 61 from the field and 7 for 21 from beyond the arch.
Another positive is that Trae Broadnax once again logged double figures, extending his streak to 8 straight games doing so with a team-leading 18 points, 3 assists, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, and a block. Upstate had 2 others put up double digits, including 14 points from Nick Alves (going with 6 rebounds, a steal, and a block), and 12 points from Ahmir Langlais to accompany his 4 boards.
Probably the biggest plus is that Patrick Iriel also had one of his best games so far this season, logging 8 points, all of which came in the first half on a perfect 4-4 night from the field. Nick Alves was also perfect from the field, going 5-5.
“I love what Pat is doing. We need to get him more tuned in on the defensive end and get him a little more selfish offensively. We ran a couple of plays for him to catch the ball in the post and he didn’t look to score. I am a little concerned about that, but Pat is one of those guys that we are gonna need. As Nick and Pat continue to get better, they are going to help us. They are good kids and work hard. Our time is coming”, said Dickerson.
Upstate, now 6-13 on the season and 1-5 in the Big South, will get back to action on the road Saturday as they make the short trip up to Boiling Springs, NC to take on the Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs – a matchup that is sure to be competitive.
“They have some of the same guys back from last year. They are playing faster than years past. We are gonna have to really get back and get matched up in transition. But, the game is simple this time of year. You have to defend, rebound, and take care of the basketball. They play fast. Their bigs are physical and their guards can shoot, and they are mobile. So it is going to be one of those classic games between us and Gardner-Webb”, said Dickerson.
Tip off on Saturday between Upstate and GWU is set for 4:00 PM at Paul Porter Arena.