by Justin Mathis
SPARTANBURG, S.C. – After a season-long eight road trip that concluded over the weekend, head coach Kyle Perry and the USC Upstate Spartans were very excited to be playing at home for the first time since November 20th.
It was a packed house at the G.B. Hodge Center on Monday morning as the Spartans hosted the College of Coastal Georgia Mariners on Educational Day. Eight elementary and middle schools from around Spartanburg County were represented in the audience and took part in numerous contests throughout the game.
A pair of strong outings from Deion Holmes and Malik Moore helped the Spartans hold off a flurry of late charges from a very tough Coastal Georgia team to claim an 83-75 victory.
Upstate sprinted out to an early 12-5 lead less than five minutes into the contest, but Coastal Georgia’s defense kept the Spartans from expanding the lead further. The Mariners went on a 9-3 run during the midway point of the first half that allowed them to take a 21-20 lead on a Hayden Goins midrange jumper.
The two teams traded punches and fought to a 25-all tie before the Spartans went on a 10-0 run, sparked by a pair of three pointers from Pat Welch, to take a 35-25 lead.
“We dug in a bit more defensively,” Upstate head coach Kyle Perry said. “We started moving the ball better and hit a couple of shots. We had a great crowd and I liked what (the university) did with getting the kids out here (to watch the game). It was nice to be back home and nice to win. A win is a win is a win – I don’t care if you win by one or by 30.”
Upstate took a 44-37 lead into the halftime break, but Coastal Georgia came out and landed a couple of proverbial punches early on during the second stanza, as a Lee Green jumper trimmed the deficit down to five at the 17:40 mark.
Upstate responded on their ensuing possession when Malik Moore flew in on the weak side and threw down a put back dunk with authority off a missed shot, putting the Spartans back up by a 48-41 margin. Moore notched the second double-double of his career, both of which have occurred this season, with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
“I told Malik that this might have been the best game he’s ever played here,” Perry stated. “I challenged him before the game to go rebound and he had 12 rebounds, 13 points, and six assists. It was a phenomenal game – I thought he and Deion were tremendous.”
Deion Holmes posted yet another solid outing this season for Upstate with a team-high 25 points. That makes three straight games that Holmes has scored at least 18 points for the Spartans. He credited his performance to the extra work he’s being putting in recently.
“I’ve just been trying to get a lot of shots up,” Holmes pointed out. “Every day after practice, I try to make it a goal to try and get into the gym. Sometimes I even ask a teammate to come and shoot with me so we can both be more productive on the court. Instead of just being a three-point (shooter) & driving, I want to work on my mid-range game a whole lot more, but also to create more (shots) for my teammates.”
“The biggest thing with Deion is he’s our hardest worker as far as ‘living in the gym’,” Perry added. “He really buys into ‘living in the gym’ and I have to kick him out a lot of times. He was in here on Sunday night and I told him he had to leave. He has bought in to everything that I’ve asked him to do. That’s the way it happens – when you work, you get rewarded.”
Upstate faces a quick turnaround as they travel to take on the Creighton Blue Jays on Wednesday, December 20th at 9 PM. The Spartans wrap up the 2017 portion of their schedule against North Greenville on December 30th at 2 PM.