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Dec. 1, 2007
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - USC Upstate again played strong for most of the first half until Wake Forest closed out the final six minutes of the half with a 19-5 run to grab control of the game and the Demon Deacons went on for a 72-48 win at the Joel Coliseum Saturday afternoon.
Upstate ends its seven-game road trip to open the season and falls to 0-7 on the year. The Spartans will play their home opener Thursday night at 7 against Brevard as part of the school's Holiday Hoops promotion. Wake Forest improves to 5-1 on the year.
"This baton death march thing we are doing with our schedule goes on," said Payne of the season-opening slate that has seen the Spartans play Utah, Akron, IUPUI, Oregon State, UNC Greensboro, Cincinnati and Wake Forest away from Spartanburg with the team traveling in excess of 8,000 miles in the last three weeks, including a trip to Alaska for the Top of the World Classic in Faribanks. "We hope it pays off down the road."
Upstate made the 9,000-plus crowd uneasy in the first half. The Spartans dictated the pace and style of play, and limited Wake Forest in its offensive sets. The ability of Upstate to dictate the play and Luke Payne's hot start enabled Upstate to grab the lead early and hold onto it for most the half.
"I thought we played our half court defense pretty well early on," said Upstate head coach Eddie Payne. "We just started making mistakes and that was the difference in the game."
Payne nailed three three-pointers in the first 5:04 of the game to allow the Spartans to take a 13-12 lead. Rory Spencer's jumper in the paint gave Upstate its biggest lead of the game to that point at 15-12 with 12:51 to play in the half.
Upstate limited Wake Forest to under 40 percent shooting in the early going and Josh Chavis' jumper with 8:11 to play gave the Spartans their biggest lead of the game, and the season, at 20-16.
Rashawn Brailsford converted 1-of-2 free throw attempts with 6:28 to play to give Upstate a 21-19 lead. Then the wheels fell off for the Spartans.
Wake Forest rattled off a 13-2 run to open a 32-23 lead with 3:09 to play and closed the half by out-scoring Upstate 19-5 to take a 38-26 lead at the intermission. The Demon Deacon defense clamped down on Payne after his three trifectas early on and did not allow the senior guard to score again in the first half.
"We've had good spells against everyone," said Payne. "But we have guys who are making mental mistakes. We had that today and Wake Forest made us pay. When you make mistakes, teams make you pay for it. That's what happened today."
After Payne's mid-range jumper cut the lead to 11, Wake Forest went on an 8-0 run to open a 21-point advantage with 15:59 to play in the game. Upstate chipped away at the lead and Brailsford's jumper got the Spartans within 16 with 12:28 remaining.
However, Wake increased the lead to 20 over the next four minutes and cruised to the victory.
James Johnson led the way for Wake Forest, finishing with 15 points and 11 rebounds for the double-double. Chas McFarland and Harvey Hale each finished with 12 points, while Ishmael Smith added 10 for the Deacs.
Payne led Upstate and tied Johnson for game-high honors with 15 points. For the third time in the last four games, he was the only Spartan to finish in double figures. Chavis added a solid eight points from his point guard position, while Bobby Davis turned in seven points and five boards.
Wake Forest shot 45.3 percent from the floor and 30 percent from behind the arc. The Deacs converted 18-of-27 free throw attempts. Upstate, after shooting in the mid-40 percent range for most of the first half, finished the game shooting 32.7 percent from the floor and was a respectable 7-of-19 from behind the arc.
Note: USC Upstate head coach Eddie Payne coached against his alma mater Saturday at Wake. Payne was a three-year letterman for the Demon Deacons from 1971-73 and was the team captain and most valuable player in 1973. He was the feature of a trivia question on the Joel Coliseum video board during the game.