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Upset Special: Spartans Down FGCU By Eight To Dim Eagles' Title Hopes

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Senior Koko Richardson posted 15 points, all in the second half, to help Upstate knock off first-place FGCU, 86-78, on Thursday night.

Senior Koko Richardson posted 15 points, all in the second half, to help Upstate knock off first-place FGCU, 86-78, on Thursday night.

Feb. 25, 2010

Final Stats

SPARtANBURG, S.C. - The final weekend at the 36-year-old Hodge Center before a $4 million renovation starts is off and running. Just like the USC Upstate women's basketball team. A 49-point second half that included 15 points from senior Koko Richardson (Mary Esther, Fla./Santa Fe C.C.) and 10 points and six assists from sophomore Lesley Daniel (Collinwood, Tenn./Collinwood) led the Spartans to one of the biggest upsets in the building's history, as Upstate downed defending A-Sun champion, Florida Gulf Coast University, 86-78, on Thursday night, critically wounding FGCU's hopes for a repeat.

"It was just a great team win," Upstate head coach Tammy George said. "They came out from the get-go and played 40 minutes (Thursday). That's probably the first time we came out and played 40 minutes of an all-our pressure defense. I can't be more proud of this team and how they responded after a big loss at ETSU."

For Upstate (19-9 overall, 13-6 A-Sun), the win gives it one more notch on a resume that could help it earn a WNIT bid. At the least, the win gives the Spartans a guaranteed third-place finish in the A-Sun and a chance to finish the regular-season with 20 wins for the first time since 1994-95, when the then-Lady Rifles went 25-6.

"I don't even know how to explain it," senior Courtney Hawkins said. "We played with heart and we really wanted to win. I'm excited. We're all excited. We picked our intensity and effort up. We stuck together and we played hard no matter what."

For FGCU (22-6 overall, 17-3 A-Sun), the loss takes them out of first place in the A-Sun for the first time this season, as ETSU, with a 68-58 win over UNF, improved to 17-2 in the conference. If ETSU beats Jacksonville on Saturday, the Lady Bucs will win the A-Sun's regular season crown.

Entering halftime tied at 37, the Spartans controlled the second half, shooting a torrid 59.3 (16-for-27) percent from the field and hitting 89 (16-for-18) percent from the line while forcing 11 FGCU turnovers and holding a dominating 16-9 advantage on the glass.

After FGCU hit the opening bucket of the second half, the Spartans went on an 11-0 run started by a pair of free throws from freshman Tee'Ara Copney (Asheville, N.C./T.C. Roberson), who finished with a game-high 22 points, featured five points from Daniel, including a three-point play that put Upstate up 42-39, and featured two layups from sophomore Kendra Wallace (Hurricane, W.Va./Nitro) on backdoor cutting drives.

"It was so much fun," Copney said of the second half. "It was a lot of intensity and effort. Everybody brought up and nobody gave up. We did it."

The Eagles spent the rest of the game catching up, drawing within a couple after a three from Chelsea Lyles with 13:45 left, but a stop-and-pop jumped from Hawkins, who scored 14 points, stopped FGCU's momentum and igniting a 6-1 mini-run for the Spartans.

Another Eagle trey, this one from Courtney Chihil, brought them back within two at 60-58 with 8:12 left, but a driving layup from Daniel was followed by a wide-open trey from Richardson and a fastbreak bucket by Copney, extending the lead back to nine points two minutes later.

Kelsey Jacobsen hit a pair of free throws to cut the lead back to two points, but junior Chelsea McMillan (East Gadsden, Fla./Santa Fe C.C.) hit a pair of free throws to answer and a backdoor layup by Richardson on a skip pass from Daniel brought the lead back to seven, as Richardson completed the old-fashioned three-point play with 1:32 left. The Eagles never got closer than six after that.

"I kept using the backboard," Richardson said of her 6-for-6 night from the field. "That's what it's there for. I knew my shots had to count. My parents were always telling me to use the backboard. That's the safety net. Everybody stepped up. It wasn't just one person. The whole team stepped up."

Both teams came out a little sluggish, with FGCU struggling from the field, shooting just 34.3 percent and Upstate struggling to keep the basketball, turning it over 15 times in the first half. The Spartans, though, got a poised performance from A-Sun Freshman of the Year candidate Copney, who scored 16 points in the half to keep Upstate close to FGCU.

"We felt we weathered the storm in the first half," George said. "We talked about taking care of the basketball and taking good shots. We also said we couldn't give this team two or three shots. That's what killed us in the first half."

The Spartans opened up a 13-9 lead after a three-point play by Copney with 14:14 left, but FGCU answered back with an 11-1 run that put them ahead, 25-18 with 8:23 left in the first. Daniel ended the run with a pair of free throws and two each from Wallace and Hawkins brought FGCU's lead back down to one-point with 6:49 left. The Eagles got the lead back to four, but a driving layup from Hawkins and a jumper from Copney tied the game at 28. The Eagles again got the lead back to four once more in the half and a free throw from Lyles brought the Eagles lead to 37-34 with 27 left on the clock. Holding for the last shot, Upstate got it when Copney fluttered off a screen and launched from behind the men's line, tying the game at 37 as the half expired.

"Sometimes when I am with my dad, I practice long shots like that," Copney said. "I never expect to shoot them in a game, but you never know. You just have to be prepared."

Copney, who hit all three of her trey attempts and five of her free throws, also posted two assists and two steals. Daniel finished with 17 points, a career-high eight assists, five rebounds and four steals. Richardson notched 15 points and Hawkins posted three assists and hit all eight of her free throws.

Both Wallace and McMillan finished with six points, with McMillan adding a game-high six rebounds and two assists.

Lyles finished with 21 points, two assists and two blocks and Adrianne McNally added 20 points, four rebounds and two steals. Shannon Murphy, hampered by foul trouble all game, posted 10 points and six assists and Jacobson, who also finished with four fouls, had 13 points and three steals. Chihil added 10 points, a team-high five rebounds and three steals.

The Spartans wrap up the 2009-10 regular season in the final game on Saturday at 3 p.m. against Stetson at the 36-year old Hodge Center, which will be completely renovated at the conclusion of the season. Before the game, Upstate will say goodbye to seniors Richardson and Hawkins, who will be playing their final games in the home whites.

• The Spartans are 6-6 all-time on Feb. 25.

• Junior Chelsea McMillan is currently fourth in school history with 299 rebounds this season ... She is one rebound away from becoming the fourth player in school history to reach 300 in a year.

• Junior Chelsea McMillan became the second player in school history to block 50 shots in a season, where she joins Yakeeshia Ross (2002-06), who did it twice.

• Junior Chelsea McMillan is currently eighth in school history with 524 career rebounds.

• Freshman Tee'Ara Copney has 65 steals on the season, the third-most in Upstate's freshman record book.

• Freshman Tee'Ara Copney became the eighth freshman to reach 300 points at Upstate with her fourth point of the night ... She is currently tied for seventh with Yakeeshia Ross (2002-03) with 318 points as a rookie.

• Junior Chelsea McMillan became the 25th player in school history to reach 400 points and the second in the D-I era to do so with her final free throw of the night.

• USC Upstate has now beaten every A-Sun opponent during its three seasons in the conference ... FGCU is the last team that Upstate needed to beat to reach the milestone, as the Eagles won the first four meetings.

• Upstate is 6-0 this season when senior Koko Richardson scored 10 or more points.

• Upstate shot a season-high 57.8 percent from the field, going 26-for-45 in the game, surpassing the 50 percent mark for the fifth time this year.

• Four players finished in double figures for the Spartans for the eighth time this season.

• Upstate is 7-0 this season when scoring 80 or more points.

USC Upstate Women's Basketball
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