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Feb. 21, 2010
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - The USC Upstate men's basketball team raced out to an 18-point first half advantage, but could not hold on as ETSU rallied to claim the 63-56 victory. With the victory inside the MSHA Athletic Center, ETSU improves to 15-14 overall and 11-8 in conference, while Upstate dips to 5-22 (5-13 A-Sun).
After a successful layup with 4:08 remaining in the game, Spartan forward Mezie Uzochukwu (Greensboro, N.C./Northeast Guilford) gave Upstate a 56-51 advantage. From that point until the final buzzer, it was all ETSU. The Bucs closed the game on a 17-4 run over the final seven minutes of the contest.
ETSU's Adam Sollazzo cut the deficit to just three points at the 3:48 mark. The Bucs tied the game for the first time in the game when Micah Williams connected on a three pointer. Williams' shot broke nearly a minute and a half stretch of scoreless basketball between the two teams.
The two teams battled for most of the second half with the Upstate lead fluctuating between two and eight points.
Justin Tubbs gave ETSU its first lead of the contest, 59-56 with 1:50 to go, when he connected on a three-pointer from the right wing. With just 34 seconds remaining, Upstate's Carter Cook (Clemmons, N.C./Calvary Baptist) could not connect on a three pointer from the left corner. Tubbs connected on four free throws over the final 23 seconds to set the final margin.
"We played well very early on," said head coach Eddie Payne. "The ETSU run at the end of the first half hurt us more than anything else. The pressure by their defense caused us to turn the ball over a few times as well as causing us to rush a few shots. In the second half we still had the opportunity to win the ballgame, but we just could not seal the deal."
The difference in the contest came at the charity stripe. ETSU managed to make 25 trips in the contest and connected on 20 of those attempts. The Spartans had just six trips to the line, all of which were attended by Nick Schneiders.
Upstate started the game on fire as they opened the game on a 13-1 run over the first 5:02 of Sunday's game. Senior center Nick Schneiders (Rietberg, Germany/Ems-Berufskolleg) scored 10 of the first 13 points for the Spartans.
"I felt I played very well in the first half," said Schneiders. "The second half was a different story though. My legs started cramping up late in the game and I am not really sure why. Usually that is not a factor for me in games. "
Upstate led by double-figures for most of the first half. The lead was extended to 18 points, 37-19, as Chalmers Rogers (Fort Mill, S.C./Fort Mill) was able to hit his lone trey of the game at the 3:04 mark.
The Spartans went scoreless over the final three minutes of the first half. Due to the ETSU full-court press, the Spartans turned the ball over several times and allowed the Bucs to cut into the deficit. ETSU closed the first half on a 10-0 run. That 10-0 spurt set the margin at 37-29 at intermission.
Upstate finished the first-half with a field-goal percentage mark of 62.5% compared to 34.8% for ETSU. The Spartans finished at 45.1% after shooting just 29.6% in the second half. Meanwhile, the Bucs posted a final FG mark of 35.8% on Sunday.
"The score doesn't show it, but that was a one or two possession game," added Payne. "We have had several of those this season and that really has an impact on a team. It weighs on you mentally and physically and makes you question whether or not you can win the game. The free throw line was the difference in the game, as they had 25 attempts compared to our six. "
Schneiders, with 22 points on 9-for-16 shooting, was the lone Spartan to reach double-figures. The 22 points by the 7-foot-3 center was just one point off of his career-high of 23 that he set against UNC Greensboro earlier this season.
"I didn't feel that there was much of a change in how ETSU guarded me between the first and second halves," added Schneiders. "There were a few times was I was moved off of the block by their defensive sets. I should have been able to work around it, but I didn't and that is my fault."
Other leaders for Upstate included, Josh Chavis, Ryan LeGates and Mezie Uzochukwu. Chavis (Greensboro, N.C./Dudley) finished with nine points, all of which came off of three-point shots. He also pulled down six rebounds. LeGates (Marietta, Ga./Blessed Trinity) tallied eight points to go along with three assists. Meanwhile, Uzochukwu, who scored eight, recorded team highs in rebounds (9) and assists (5)
Leading the way for the Bucs was a quartet of players in double-figures. Sheldon Cooley and Justin Tubbs both scored 13 in the game, while forwards Micah Williams and Tommy Hubbard scored 12 and 10, respectively.
ETSU owned a slim 33-32 advantage on the boards, while recording six more steals and five fewer turnovers compare to the visiting Spartans. Upstate owned a 13-8 advantage in the assist category.
Upstate will close out its 2009-10 campaign with a trip to the sunshine state. The Spartans will play at Florida Gulf Coast on Thursday night (7:05 p.m.), before traveling to DeLand, Fla. to face Stetson on Saturday night (7:00 p.m.) in the season finale.