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Spartans Pull Away From Gardner-Webb For First A-Sun Win

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Mezie Uzochukwu goes up for a layup over Gardner-Webb's Nate Blank.

Mezie Uzochukwu goes up for a layup over Gardner-Webb's Nate Blank.

Jan. 10, 2008

Box Score

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -





"This was our most complete game we have played all year long. We played a complete 40-minute game with no lapses. We played with purpose on offense and had our best defensive effort of the year."
Eddie Payne - Upstate Head Coach


USC Upstate used a 9-1 spurt early in the second half to gain control of its Atlantic Sun Conference home opener Thursday night in the Hodge Center and pulled away for a 73-59 victory over Gardner-Webb.

Upstate improves to 3-13 overall and 1-1 in the A-Sun. Gardner-Webb falls to 7-10 overall and 1-2 in the league. The Spartans host Campbell Saturday afternoon at 4:00, while the Bulldogs travel to East Tennessee State for a 4:00 p.m. tip.

"It's really good to get the first win," said Upstate head coach Eddie Payne. "We've been on the road so long and it was good to get this first one. Hopefully, it will be the first of many to come."

Upstate grabbed control of the game from the start and battled with Gardner-Webb throughout the first half. Upstate built a six-point lead, 14-8, midway through the half. However, Gardner-Webb rallied with a 7-0 run to take a 15-14 lead. From that point on, the teams went back and forth and the game wound up tied at 24-24 with 2:40 to play before halftime. It was the fifth tie of the half.

Josh Chavis nailed a three-pointer to give Upstate a three-point lead and the Spartans would never relinquish the lead the rest of the way. Upstate went into the intermission with a 31-28 advantage. The Spartans managed the three-point lead at the half despite having to play without Nick Schneiders and Bobby Davis for several minutes, both having to sit with foul trouble.

The lead remained three points early in the second half when Upstate made its decisive run to gain total control of the game. Jeremy Byrd nailed a three-pointer, came up with a steal, and converted a layup to ignite a 9-1 run that gave Upstate an 11-point advantage, 42-31, with 16:45 to play. Gardner-Webb would get no closer than eight the rest of the way.

Gardner-Webb answered with a free throw by Thomas Sanders and a layup by Matt French to cut the lead to eight, 42-34, with 14:43 to play. Upstate countered with six straight points to increase the lead to 14 with under 12 minutes to play. With the lead holding at 14 points, Gardner-Webb scored five unanswered points to cut the Spartan advantage to single digits, 50-41, with 8:28 to play in the game.

Upstate's Eddie Payne called a 30-second timeout to regroup and Luke Payne pushed the lead back to double digits with a layup. The lead would never dip below 11 points the rest of the game. The Spartans increased the lead to 21 points, 66-45, with 3:20 to play and coasted to the 73-59 win.

The game marked the first time this season Upstate shot 50 percent or better from the field, hitting 29-of-58 shots from the floor. Upstate held Gardner-Webb to 36.4 percent shooting on the night.

"This was our most complete game we have played all year long," said Payne. "We played a complete 40-minute game with no lapses. We played with purpose on offense and had our best defensive effort of the year."

Byrd led the way for Upstate for the second straight game, equaling his scoring output he turned in at East Tennessee State last Saturday with 14 points. He also dished out five assists and had four steals. Mezie Uzochukwu added a career-high 14 points, while Bobby Davis and Payne each finished with 13. Davis narrowly missed a double-double, pulling down nine rebounds.

Sanders led Gardner-Webb with a game-high 24 points. He also grabbed eight rebounds. Aaron Linn added 10 points in the loss.

 
USC Upstate Men's Basketball
 
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