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Upstate Beats PC To End Regular Season

“We have been through trials and tribulations this year trying to find our identity”. That short line from USC Upstate Head Coach Dave Dickerson in his postgame press conference adequately sums up the season the Spartans have had.


Upstate entered Wednesday night’s regular season finale with Presbyterian College with just 9 wins and a 4-11 record in the Big South Conference. It has been a season marred by close losses, inability to close out games, extended scoring droughts, injuries, illnesses, and defense that has struggled to get stops when they needed them.


Despite all that, this team has had moments where they have shown flashes of what they could be. For example, the win on the road at East Carolina early in the season. More recently, it was their effort in an overtime road upset of High Point. On Wednesday night, the Spartans and their seniors – Nick Alves, Trae Broadnax, Floyd Rideau Jr, Miguel Ayesa, Ahmir Langlais, Dave Dickerson III, and Thomas Sheida – would have one last chance to shine in front of their home crowd.


USC Upstate scored the first points of the game on a layup from Nick Alves after both teams traded empty possessions to start the night. That lead was short-lived as the Blue Hose went on an 8-2 run over the next 2 minutes and 36 seconds, eventually snapped by another Nick Alves layup at the 16:32 mark, leading to a 10-6 PC lead at the first media stoppage.


The Spartans finally got their offense going leading into the under 12 timeout, going 5 for 6 from the field in that stretch to result in the 2 sides being knotted at 14. Out of the break, Upstate finally jumped ahead for the 2nd time with a 6-0 burst, making the score 22-16, never truly looking back from there.


Upstate jumped out to an 11 point lead at the 3:15 mark of the 1st half – their largest of the night, and despite trading baskets, the game would not be close again until just under the halfway mark of the final 20 minutes. The Spartans went cold for 2:00 – a common theme this season, allowing the Blue Hose to pull it to a 3 point game with a 5-0 push that was eventually snapped by a Justin Bailey pull up jumper for 2 at the 9:11 mark. It didn’t take long for the Hose to rally back with another 5-0 spurt, capped by a game-tying three from Kory Mincy with 8:08 to play, knotting it at 61.


The 2 sides traded blows over the next 4 minutes, with Upstate holding a narrow 68-64 lead at the final media timeout, and in the end, it came down to the final 20 seconds.


After a timeout with 18.9 seconds to play in the game and the Spartans leading 72-69, Kory Mincy once again drained a game-tying three pointer with just 9 ticks to play. As has been the situation all season, Dave Dickerson put a last shot scenario into the hands of his senior playmaker Trae Broadnax.


Trae drove the length of the court, similarly to what happened when the Spartans beat Longwood at the horn early in conference play. Except this time,  Trae did not miss, putting up a layup that bounced softly across the front iron and in to give the Spartans the lead with just over a second on the clock.


Presbyterian put up a heave to beat the buzzer from just past half court, but it bounced harmlessly off the glass, securing the Spartans’ 10th win of the season by a final of 74-72.


“We talked about it in the game – with the score tied like that, we’re not gonna call a timeout. We’re just gonna give the ball to him (Broadnax) and try to clear the middle of the court and let him get downhill. He has made that play for us a lot. He did it against Longwood and got to the rim. He missed the shot, but Ahmir (Langlais) was there to tip it in. It would have played out the same way if he had missed tonight; Ahmir would have tipped it in. With Trae’s size and strength, you want to get him downhill. He struggled tonight from the field, but he came through when we needed him to – and that is the mark of a good senior”, said Coach Dickerson about the final play and Trae’s poise.


The Spartans won the game tonight in large part due to having 5 players score in double figures. Nick Alves led the way with 13 points, 2 huge blocks, and a rebound. Jalen Breazeale tallied 12 with 7 assists, 2 steals, and 2 boards. Justin Bailey logged 11 with a steal and 3 rebounds. Trae Broadnax also logged 10 points and 7 boards with 2 assists. But one of the biggest stories of the night was Patrick Iriel, who made a new career high, just missing a double-double with 10 points, 9 rebounds, a steal, and a block.


“Pat (Iriel) has the potential to have a great career here. He just needs to get confident and stay healthy. But, he made some big buckets for us. I would love to see him go after the ball a little harder as far as protecting the rim. But his performance tonight was much-needed and he came through for us”, said Dickerson.


Aside from the offensive production, the Spartans also showed some life in another big area they had been struggling in over the last 3 games – rebounding. Upstate won the battle on the boards 38-36, pulling down 28 defensive rebounds and 10 offensive. In total, USCU scored 12 second chance points off their offensive boards, which was a key difference maker in the contest.


“I told my coaches not to talk about rebounding today unless it was to prepare. Right before the game we challenged them to be all in and do their job. We talked about being all in meaning that everyone needed to rebound. We can’t just depend on our guys with size to do it all. We need all our guys to rebound. If you want to look at one stat in college basketball that leads to wins, it is rebounding and getting loose balls. Our guys did a great job of that tonight”, said Dickerson.


With it being senior night, Coach Dickerson was remiss not to give a tip of the cap to his seniors that came up big in this game.


“We didn’t have the year we wanted to, but for us to play the way we did tonight for a full 40 minutes, we needed our seniors. We talked about those 7 guys in film yesterday – about how we have to use our toughness and experience to win. I told them we had to rebound the basketball and we’ve gotta get more possessions.Those guys took it to heart”, coach Dickerson stated.


With the regular season in the books, Upstate will have the luxury of a bye Saturday, meaning they will not play again until the Big South Conference Tournament. The question now is whether or not they will play on day 1 of the tourney, which begins Wednesday night at High Point’s Qubein Center. There is a huge mess from 5th-9th in the conference standings, all of which will be decided by Saturday night. Regardless, coach Dickerson is thrilled for the rest for his guys and the opportunities the extra time off presents for him and his staff.


“Things are happening the right way for us and hopefully they will continue to so we can avoid that play-in game. We want our guys to get rested and healthy, but most importantly, we have to get out on the road and get to recruiting. There’s a lot of good high school and JuCo games going on this weekend and we have to get out and see. We are having to replace some quality guys and we have to do a good job of that, because we’re losing some quality team mates.”


Should the Spartans avoid the play-in, they’ll play Thursday at the conference tournament. If not, game one is set for 8:00 PM tentatively.

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