By Justin Mathis
SPARTANBURG, S.C. – As the second half of the Atlantic Sun Conference schedule cranked up on Monday night, it took over 40 minutes to decide the victor between the Lipscomb Bisons and USC Upstate Spartans at the Eddie and Ann Payne Arena.
The host Spartans got a pair of solid performances, including a career night from Deion Holmes, but it wasn’t enough as Upstate fell to Lipscomb in double overtime by a final tally of 110-106.
In the first half, Upstate had some difficulty finding a rhythm on offense and knock down open looks, specifically from beyond the arc, where the Spartans only made one of their first 12 attempts (8%). The shooting woes caused head coach Kyle Perry to become concerned.
“We had great looks, but they just weren’t falling,” Perry said. “I was really surprised with how we struggled early. That’s basketball, sometimes. I’m really proud of our kids. I’m so thankful for the effort they put forth. This program has been through a lot of adversity that a lot of people don’t know about… I can’t explain how appreciative I am for what they have done and how they continue to fight.”
With just over two minutes remaining in the first half, a Kenny Cooper layup pushed the Bisons’ advantage to 34-18. Upstate closed the half with an 11-2 run, which trimmed Lipscomb’s lead to 36-29 at the break.
Lipscomb quickly extended it to 42-31 less than two minutes into the second stanza on a three pointer from Matt Rose. Later on, a three from Garrison Matthews put the Bisons back ahead by ten, 51-41.
Rob Marberry knocked down a pair of free throws to put Lipscomb ahead by six, 84-78, with 39 seconds left in regulation. Upstate quickly answered with a five point swing – a layup from Jure Span and a Mike Cunningham three pointer – to make it an 84-83 game with 15 seconds left. Deion Holmes tied the game at 85 on a layup with five seconds remaining, which sent the game to overtime.
“I felt like middle part of the second half, we had a lot of defensive breakdowns,” Lipscomb head coach Casey Alexander stated. “Our guys weren’t matched up (and) we didn’t get back in transition. I felt like (Upstate) got some easy baskets and put a nice, little run together that gave them a lot of confidence. From that point on, we never got any rhythm back defensively and it was just basket for basket the rest of the time.”
With time winding down in the first overtime, Upstate held a 96-94 lead. On the ensuing Bisons’ possession, Matthews drove to the basket and was fouled with four-tenths of a second remaining. He made both shots from the charity stripe, forcing the game to double overtime.
“It was a tough game,” Holmes said. “(Lipscomb forcing double overtime) took a lot out of me. We didn’t lose hope. All in all, we just kept fighting and we just came up short.”
A layup by Holmes put the Spartans ahead 106-105 with 52 seconds remaining, but Marberry answered on the other end with one of his own, putting Lipscomb ahead for good.
Deion Holmes notched the first double-double of his collegiate career with 39 points and 12 rebounds, both of which are career-highs. He also tallied new career-highs for field goals made (13), attempted (25), along with free throws made (13), attempted (14), and minutes played (48). Holmes also became the 23rd USC Upstate player to score 1,000 career points.
Malik Moore finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds, giving him his fifth career double-double. Moore set career highs in free throws made (12), minutes played (45), and tied his career high in rebounds (14) and free throws attempted (12). Mike Cunningham and Ramel Thompkins also tallied double digit totals with 23 and 11 points, respectively, for Upstate.
Rob Marberry led the way for Lipscomb with a team-high 38 points. Garrison Matthews had 24 points, while Michael Buckland (15), Matt Rose (11), and Kenny Cooper (10) also finished in double figures for the Bisons.
USC Upstate (6-19, 1-7 A-Sun) will visit Kennesaw State on Saturday, February 3rd at 4:30 PM.
Lipscomb (15-8, 5-3 A-Sun) will host NJIT on Saturday at 5 PM.