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Dec. 15, 2007
SPARTANBURG, S.C. - Bluefield College, ranked 16th in the nation in NAIA, used a run in the first half to grab a double digit lead and then withstood a pair of USC Upstate rallies in the second half to take a 93-77 victory over the Spartans Saturday evening at the G.B. Hodge Center.
Upstate falls to 1-8 on the year and travels to SMU Tuesday for an 8:00 p.m. EST tip-off with the Mustangs in Dallas, Texas. Bluefield improves to 11-3 on the year.
Upstate looked in control early in the game. Luke Payne's three-pointer at the 16:00 mark of the opening half gave Upstate a 5-4 lead and spurred the Spartans to a 12-4 run to open a 16-9 lead with 11:22 to play before halftime. However, Bluefield caught fire and rattled off five straight to get back within two 59 seconds later.
Bluefield's Coryon Ross nailed a three-pointer to tie the game at 21-21 with 8:17 to play. The basket began a back-and-forth period when Upstate and Bluefield answered each other shot for shot. With the game tied at 28-28, Johnny Witherspoon hit a three-pointer to give Bluefield a 31-28 lead with 5:45 to play before the intermission. The Rams would not relinquish the lead the rest of the way.
Witherspoon's three-pointer started a 14-2 run for Bluefield as the Rams pushed the lead to 12 points, 42-30, with 2:50 to play. The Spartans answered with a three-pointer by Payne and a jumper by Brailsford as Upstate cut the lead to seven, 42-35, with 1:37 to play. The teams traded missed shots and turnovers for the remainder of the half until Keenan Rainer grabbed a rebound with three seconds remaining and heaved a shot from over 80 feet that touched nothing but net, falling through the bucket for a buzzer-beater three-pointer that gave Bluefield a 45-35 lead at halftime.
"It was a fitting way to end the half with the way we played and with what happened in the first half ," said head coach Eddie Payne.
Bluefield was strong form the field in the first half, hitting over 46 percent of its shots from the floor, including nailing 8-of-15 from behind the three-point arc. Upstate, which started the half strong, cooled off and shot 40 percent from the floor and made just 4-of-15 from behind the arc.
Upstate made two separate runs to get back in the game in the second half, but Bluefield matched each run to take the victory. With Bluefield leading by 10, Gabor Boros nailed a three-pointer and Bobby Davis converted a layup to cut the Ram lead to five with 14:35 to play in the game. However, Bluefield managed to push the lead back to double digits, taking a 13-point lead, 59-46, with 12:40 remaining.
Trailing by 12 with over 11 minutes to play, Upstate again made a push to get back in the game. Payne scored five points in a 7-1 Upstate run to cut the Bluefield lead to six, 62-56, with 10:39 to play, but the Rams again answered. Bluefield out-scored Upstate 14-5 over the next two minutes to open a 15-point lead, 76-61, with 8:10 to go and the Rams' lead never dropped into single digits the rest of the game.
Bluefield placed six players in double figures for the game. Curtis Dixon led the way with 15, while Dontae Gholson and James Chapman each added 14. Witherspoon and Ross each finished with 12, while Omar Reed added 10.
Payne led Upstate with 20 points and four assists. Mezie Uzochukwu added 13 points and seven rebounds, while Boros added 11 points.