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Feb. 25, 2010
Fort Myers, Fla. - The USC Upstate men's basketball team began its final road trip to close out the season in grand fashion, using solid defense and getting a double-double from Nick Schneiders to take a 59-52 victory over Florida Gulf Coast in Alico Arena Thursday night.
Upstate improved to 6-22 overall and 6-13 in the A-Sun with the win. The Spartans will close out the season Saturday night at 7:00 against Stetson in DeLand, Fla. Florida Gulf Coast closed out its season with an 8-21 overall record and a 5-15 mark in the conference. With the win, Upstate finished ahead of FGCU in the league standings for the second straight year.
Upstate spoiled senior day for FGCU by dictating the tempo throughout the game and limiting the Eagles' marquee players from getting on track offensively. Anthony Banks entered the game averaging nearly 14 points and seven rebounds per game to lead FGCU. He finished with five points and five rebounds. Reed Baker, who finished with 27 points in the Eagles' 86-82 win at Upstate on Dec. 14, finished with just 12 points tonight.
"We never let Florida Gulf Coast get out on the break," said Upstate head coach Eddie Payne. "We dictated the pace of play throughout the game. They got four points off of their break, and two of those came on free throws."
The second half was a classic matchup of wills and Upstate prevailed in the end. The teams jockeyed throughout the half to gain control, but neither was able to do so until Upstate wrestled away momentum late in the game.
Schneiders began the half with a dunk to give Upstate 36-35 lead, but FGCU countered to take a 39-36 lead early on. Neither team was very efficient for the first six minutes, but Cedric Koffi's 14-foot jumper tied the game at 39-39 with 14:27 to play.
The Spartans opened a two-point lead less than a minute later, but FGCU battled back to take a two-point lead with 11:02 remaining. Trailing 46-45, Chalmers Rogers nailed a short jumper to give Upstate a 47-46 lead and the Spartans would not trail again.
Mezie Uzochukwu grabbed an offensive rebound after a Schneiders miss and made the put back to give the Spartans a 51-47 lead with 4:09 to play. FGCU fought back to cut it to one with 1:05 remaining, but Upstate hit key free throws down the stretch to take the win.
Schneiders hit a hook in the lane to give Upstate a three-point lead and, after a missed FGCU layup, Josh Chavis nailed two free throws to open a five-point lead with 23 seconds to play. After another FGCU miss, Ryan LeGates converted two free throws with 12 seconds to play to seal the win.
"We certainly had the right players on the line at the end of the game," said Payne.
Upstate fell behind by eight points in the first half, but fought back to take a four-point lead with 4:39 to play before halftime. The Spartans led by two after Carter Cook's layup with 13 seconds to play, but Baker was fouled while attempting a three-pointer at the buzzer and made all three free throws to give the Eagles a 35-34 lead at the intermission.
Neither team shot the ball well, but Upstate did enough to win the game. The Spartans finished the game 19-of-51 from the field (37 percent) and was just 2-13 from the three-point arc. However, they held FGCU to 38 percent shooting from the floor and 23 percent from the arc, while forcing the Eagles into 21 turnovers. Upstate also grabbed 15 offensive rebounds, with Schneiders grabbing six and Cook pulling down four.
"Those two did a good job on the offensive glass," said Payne. "Carter seemed to get a lot of tips and kept the ball alive all night long."
Schneiders recorded his third double-double of the year with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Ryan LeGates added 12 points and three assists, while Uzochukwu added 10 points and seven boards. Despite finishing with just three points, Cook tallied five assists and nine rebounds.
Baker and Kyle Marks led FGCU with 12 points apiece.