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Jan. 30, 2010
SPARTANBURG, S.C. - In the first half, it was sophomore Kendra Wallace (Hurricane, W.Va./Nitro) igniting the USC Upstate women's basketball team's offense with 19 points. In the second half, it was junior Chelsea McMillan (East Gadsden, Fla./Santa Fe C.C.), who posted 15 points, that sealed the Spartans fourth straight Atlantic Sun Conference win, as the Spartans downed North Florida, 65-59, on a snowy Saturday at the Hodge Center.
In front of 103 fans that braved the icy and snowy roads in Spartanburg, the Spartans (13-7 overall, 7-4 overall) sparkled in a gritty contest, leading for all but the first 48 seconds of the game en route to the team's first season sweep ever against the Lady Ospreys (6-15 overall, 3-9 A-Sun). Despite shooting just 31 percent (18-for-58) in the game, Upstate rode on the backs of Wallace and McMillan, who scored 44 points. Wallace posted a season-high 24 points, hitting 5-of-8 3-point attempts, and added a career-high six steals. McMillan notched 20 points, posting a perfect 6-for-6 effort at the free throw line, 13 rebounds and three blocks as she posted her 10th double-double of the season.
"Kendra got us going," Upstate head coach Tammy George said. "At the beginning of the first half, she was the only one scoring and really carrying us. She got us started."
The Ospreys used did their best to cut into a 17-point deficit that they faced with 9:59 left in the game, bringing the Spartans' lead down to three points with 1:58 left after a free throw by Kim Baker capped a 21-7 run. That was as close as UNF could get, though, as McMillan hit a pair of free throws after a block by freshman Christine Nyobe (Betoua, Cameroon/The Miller School) got Upstate the ball. The Ospreys cut the lead to three with 35 seconds left after a layup by Arlande Cherizol, and the Ospreys forced a steal in the backcourt, but a missed layup led to an Osprey turnover. With 22 seconds left, sophomore Lesley Daniel (Collinwood, Tenn./Collinwood) converted a pair of free throws and Nyobe hit one free throw with 12 seconds left to close out the six-point win, giving Upstate its first four-game conference winning streak since Coach George's first year at Upstate in 2006.
"It's never easy for us," George said. "We always seem to make it interesting. North Florida is well-coached. They are very scrappy and we knew we couldn't rest easy. We missed some free throws down the stretch and that didn't help, but we held on and we'll take it."
The Spartans, led by Wallace, got out to a hot start in the first half, as the sophomore hit a try to open the scoring, then forced a steal and converted another from downtown before she posted another steal and cruised in for a fastbreak layup to give Upstate an 8-0 lead.
"We were just ready to play," Wallace said of her start. "I haven't been playing well, I don't think. I thought, if I picked it up defensively, maybe offensively, I'd do a little better."
The Ospreys were able to cut the lead back down to one point, but a layup by junior Shadae Thompson (Greenville, S.C./Anderson University) started a run of seven straight Spartan points, as Wallace hit a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws to cap the run and give Upstate a 17-9 lead with 11:54 left. The Ospreys fought back to cut the lead to three, but Upstate brought the lead to nine points at 23-14 with 8:34 left after Wallace scored her 19th point of the first half on a free throw. The Ospreys cut into the lead from there, with a free throw by Kim Baker helping them head into halftime down, 28-25.
The Spartans finally ended a four-minute stretch without a point by either team when Daniel canned a three a minute into the second half. The trey sparked the Spartans on a 7-0 run to open the half, as freshman Lauren McRoberts (Carmel, Ind./Carmel) hit a pair of free throws and McMillan converted on a layup, giving Upstate a 36-25 lead with 16:56 left. The Ospreys cut the lead to eight, but Upstate used an 11-2 run to take a 53-36 lead midway through the second half, as Wallace hit a three-pointer to end the run.
Playing only in the second half, Nyobe posted 11 quality minutes, finishing with career highs in points (six), steals (three) and adding four rebounds and a block. Daniel added five points, four assists and a steal and McRoberts added two points and six rebounds.
The Ospreys were led by 16 points, four assists and two steals by Baker. Juliemay Syquio added 11 points, four assists, six steals and three rebounds. Shennette Sheffield posted two blocks and seven rebounds and Larkira Jones added nine points, 11 rebounds and two blocks. Cherizol added seven points, five rebounds and three steals.
Upstate will wrap up four straight games against River City teams when Jacksonville comes to the Hodge on Monday at 7 p.m.
The Spartans are 8-2 all-time on Jan. 30, last falling to Georgia College & State, 70-57, in 2002.
Junior Chelsea McMillan entered the game tied for second in the A-Sun and tied for 20th in the nation with nine double-doubles ... She led the A-Sun with 12 10-rebound games and added to both totals with her 20 points and 13 rebounds.
With her three blocks, junior Chelsea McMillan is now tied for seventh on the school's single-season chart with 33 blocked shots.
Junior Chelsea McMillan, who posted 24 points last Saturday at Jacksonville, added 20 points, posting back-to-back 20 point efforts for the second time in her career.
The last time Upstate won four league games in a row was from Jan. 11-21, 2006 when the Spartans were still members of the Peach Belt Conference.
This is the first time in the D-I era that USC Upstate has had two 20-point scorers in back-to-back games. Junior Chelsea McMillan (24) and freshman Tee'Ara Copney (23) did it against Jacksonville and McMillan (20) and sophomore Kendra Wallace (24) were above 20 points against UNF.