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Nov. 10, 2007
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH - USC Upstate opened the NCAA Division I era on the road at Utah in the historic Huntsman Center Friday night. Despite taking the 86-52 loss, Upstate ushered in the new era in basketball and Jeremy Byrd made school history by breaking the all-time steals record.
Upstate falls to 0-1 on the season, while Utah improves to 1-0. Upstate travels to Fairbanks, Alaska, next Friday to battle Akron in the first round of the BP Top of the World Classic. The Spartans will be one of eight teams in the tournament along with Akron, Alaska-Fairbanks, Colorado State, IUPUI, Oregon State, Portland State and Tennessee State. Utah takes on High Point Nov. 13 in the first round of the NIT Season Tip-Off.
"I think there are a couple of things we can pull out of this game as positives," said head coach Eddie Payne. "We learned a lot about our team and we are going to have to get the ball in the hands of a couple of players more often. We will have to get better on a play-by-play basis. In time, we will get better and will be okay."
Having already picked two steals in the first three minutes of the first half, Byrd came up with his historic steal at the 14:17 mark. He was fouled on the ensuing fast break layup attempt and converted 1-of-2 to cut the Utah lead to two, 11-9.
"I am happy for the record," said Byrd. "But I would rather have a win and the record than a loss and the record."
The first half saw Upstate keep the game close in the early minutes, but Utah used a decisive run late in the half to vault out to a commanding lead at halftime.
Luke Payne's three-pointer with 15:47 to play cut the Utah lead to one, 9-8. Utah answered with a bucket by Kim Tillie to increase the lead to three. Jeremy Byrd converted 1-of-2 free throws to cut the Utes' lead to 11-9 with 14:15 left before halftime.
Utah held Upstate scoreless for the better part of the next four minutes and grabbed control of the game. By the time Nick Schneiders converted two free throws with 10:00 to play, Upstate trailed by 11, 24-13. The Spartans went scoreless over the next 3:03 and Utah again took advantage, pushing the lead to 16 points, 29-13, with 7:48 to play.
Payne's free throw ended the drought and Justin Houser's three-pointer with 6:18 to play cut the Utah lead to 12. However, the Utes went on a 15-0 run to open a 27-point lead, 45-18. Utah held Upstate scoreless for 5:08, the third scoring drought suffered by the Spartans in the first half. Bobby Davis hit a three-pointer with three seconds to play to cut the lead to 24 at the half.
Upstate was hampered by less than stellar shooting in the first half, hitting just 5-of-29 shots for a 17.2 percent clip. The Spartans were 3-of-15 from the three-point arc. Utah, on the other hand, was solid from the floor, hitting 15-of-26 from the floor for a 57.7 percent clip, including hitting 4-of-11 from three-point land. The Utes were 11-of-14 from the free throw line.
Upstate did force Utah into 12 turnovers in the half, three coming off the hands of Byrd. The Spartans came up with seven steals in the half. The Spartans turned the ball over nine times.
The second half was much closer than the first, with Utah out-scoring Upstate 41-31. Schneiders hit a jumper and Mezie Uzochukwu converted a pair of free throws as the Spartans cut the Utah lead to 19 points with 17:57 to play in the game.
Utah used a 5-0 spurt to open a 24-point lead and the Ute advantage remained around that margin for the next four minutes. Utah used a 14-2 run to open a 36-point lead, 73-37, with 7:11 to play and cruised to the victory.
Utah shot 57.1 percent from the floor for the game, including hitting 7-of-15 (46.7%) from the three-point arc. Upstate shot 42.9 percent from the field in the second half and finished shooting 26.1 percent from the field.
Five Utah players finished in double figures on the night. Lawrence Borha led the way for the Utes with 20 points. Luke Nevill, who played just two minutes in the first half after picking up two early fouls, finished with 12. Tyler Kepkay added 12 points, six assists, five rebounds and three steals for an all-around solid night, while Stephen Weigh and Johnnie Bryant each chipped in with 10.
Davis led Upstate with 13 points and three rebounds, while Payne added 12 points, three steals and two assists. Byrd finished with nine points and six steals. Schneiders added six points and a career-high nine rebounds.