SPARTANBURG, S.C. – USC Upstate coach Eddie Payne said it all in the answer to one question.
“They controlled the whole game.”
Stetson guard Divine Myles scored 22 points, knocking down all eight of a staggering 27 free throw conversions by his club, en route to an 83-72 decision over Payne’s Spartans in front of 517 fans at the Hodge Center Thursday night.
Upstate (17-12, 7-5 Atlantic Sun) scored the game’s first bucket on a Ramel Thompkins triple, and survived some initial shooting struggles to hold the lead for the game’s first eight minutes. Stetson (11-18, 3-9) got a B.J. Glasford jumper to tie the contest at 11 before the media timeout. The Hatters raced out of that stoppage, adding 11 unanswered points to stagger Upstate and set the tone for the remainder of the proceedings. The home side cut the lead to nine at the interval, giving Payne some cause for hope in the second twenty.
“We showed some spunk and cut the last media timeout deficit by four, so we felt like we were still in the game,” said Payne.
(POSTGAME AUDIO: USC Upstate Coach Eddie Payne)
Stetson again emerged from its corner figuratively swinging, going on a 21-9 burst out of the half to find itself ahead 60-39 at the under-12 break. Upstate took advantage of the breather, going on a 12-1 run of its own to knife the lead to 10.
As quickly as the counterpunch landed on Stetson, though, the Hatters countered with a 1-2 combination that put the Spartans down for the count.
Stetson got a layup by Myles, two Derick Newton free throws and a Brian Pegg layup in a minute-and-a-half span to stretch the lead back to 16 with just under six minutes remaining. Though Upstate mounted a small rally to prevent the margin from further expanding, the Hatters were able to control the ball for long stretches on offense and put away the contest.
Stetson flummoxed Upstate with an active zone defense, jumping passing lanes and forcing steals. The Hatters pilfered the ball 11 times, part of 16 Spartan turnovers that led to 23 Hatter points. “It (the zone) surprised us, because they have played almost exclusively man all year long,” said Payne. “They went zone down there on us (in a 97-86 Upstate win January 21) for three or four possessions, and we ran them out of it. We were stagnant, very stagnant. Our approach was not a winning basketball-style approach to it at any point in the game.”
Upstate big man Michael Buchanan scored 21 points on 9-of-16 shooting, despite being doubled and fronted by the Hatters most of the night. Payne also mentioned that Buchanan has been playing through tendinitis in his knees. “He’s performed in games, and he did so again tonight. We just didn’t get him enough touches in the first half, I thought,” said Payne. “Mike Buchanan has really produced very well this year.” Guards Deion Holmes and Mike Cunningham joined Buchanan in double figures, scoring 13 and 10, respectively.
Myles’ 22 paced the Hatters and all scorers. Newton added 16, while Leo Goodman poured in 11 of Stetson’s 23 bench points.
Both teams return to Atlantic Sun play Saturday. Upstate finds itself in a three-way tie for third place following a Kennesaw State loss to Jacksonville and a North Florida victory at Lipscomb. Second-place Florida Gulf Coast visits Upstate Saturday afternoon for a 2:00 (Eastern) tip. Stetson travels to the Fleisher Center in Newark, N.J. to take on NJIT. That game will commence at 4:00 Saturday afternoon.
STETSON 83, USC UPSTATE 72
STETSON (11-18, 3-9 ASUN): Myles 6-13 8-8 22, Rivera 0-3 5-6 5, Newton 4-7 7-8 16, Doyle 2-8 3-4 9, Pegg 4-7 0-0 8, Glasford 3-4 0-0 6, Dennis 1-2 4-4 6, Goodman 4-8 0-0 11. Totals 24-52 27-30 83.
UPSTATE (17-12, 7-5): Cunningham 3-7 2-2 10, Span 3-7 0-0 8, Thompkins 2-6 1-2 6, Moore 2-5 1-1 6, Buchanan 9-16 3-7 21, Cuthbertson 0-3 0-0 0, Holmes 3-10 4-4 13, Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Whittington 4-8 0-0 8. Totals 26-62 11-16 72.
Halftime — Stetson 39-30. 3-Point Goals—Stetson 8-21 (Myles 2-3, Rivera 0-3, Newton 1-2, Doyle 2-8, Goodman 3-5), Upstate 9-29 (Cunningham 2-6, Span 2-6, Thompkins 1-4, Moore 1-3, Cuthbertson 0-2, Holmes 3-8). Fouled Out — None. Rebounds — Upstate 34 (Buchanan 7), Stetson 33 (Newton 6). Assists — Upstate 18 (Span 5), Stetson 13 (Rivera 6). Total Fouls — Upstate 21, Stetson 11. Technical — None. A — 517.
Points in the Paint — Upstate 32, Stetson 24. Points off Turnovers — Stetson 23, Upstate 9. Second-Chance Points — Upstate 13, Stetson 10. Fast Break Points — Stetson 6, Upstate 6. Bench Points — Stetson 23, Upstate 21.