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Nov. 28, 2009
SPARTANBURG, S.C. - Forcing a Division I era-high 36 turnovers, the USC Upstate women's basketball team scored 32 points off turnovers and was able to get out to a 16-point lead in the first half and cruise to a 78-60 win over UNC Asheville on Saturday afternoon at the Hodge Center in non-conference action. Upstate's win was Upstate's first in six tries against Asheville.
Offensively, Upstate used a balanced attack that saw three players finish in double figures, led by 15 points, four rebounds and two steals from senior Courtney Hawkins (Greer, S.C./Greer). Sophomore Kendra Wallace (Hurricane, W.Va./Nitro) scored 14 points, on strength of four 3-pointers, as she also added six rebounds and a career-high three steals. Senior Koko Richardson (Mary Esther, Fla./Santa Fe C.C.) also added 12 points and seven rebounds.
"I was really happy with what our defense was able to do when the ball was on the floor," Upstate head coach Tammy George said. "To force 36 turnovers and to get eight players with at least one steal, that speaks volumes to our team defense (Saturday). We just jumped on them and defensively, we kept them out of a consistent rhythm all game. That said, we were still outrebounded by 10 and that is something we are going to have to address. We have to be more aggressive and in position on the glass to continue to be successful."
Upstate (4-2 overall) got out to a quick four point lead thanks to a layup from sophomore Lesley Daniel (Collinwood, Tenn./Collinwood) and a jumper from junior Chelsea McMillan (East Gadsden, Fla./Santa Fe C.C.), but the teams went toe-to-toe for much of the first five minutes until Wallace's first 3-pointer with 15:47 left in the first half, setting off a 10-0 run capped by a 3-pointer from junior Sharniece Wadelington (Greenville, S.C./UNC Greensboro) just a minute and a half later, giving Upstate a 19-8 lead. From there, the Bulldogs (2-3 overall) could close the lead to only to eight, but Upstate continued to work, scoring six straight near the 8:00 mark to take a 35-19 lead after a fast-break layup from Daniel.
"The last couple games, we have gotten out to a quick lead which is totally different than our first four games," George said. "We know how important it is to start strong and how that really can carry us and the past couple games it has."
The Bulldogs worked the lead back down to seven points at 39-32 with 1:46 left after a pair of free throws from Kelli Riles, but Upstate responded, as freshman Lauren McRoberts (Carmel, Ind./Carmel) hit three straight free throws and Wallace hit a 3-pointer with 38 seconds left to give Upstate a 13-point lead. Riles closed the half with a 3-point play, but Upstate still went to the locker room with a 45-35 lead.
A 3-pointer from Lindsey Thompson cut Upstate's lead to seven to start the second half, but a pair of layups from Richardson were sandwiched by Wallace's last 3-pointer, giving Upstate a 52-38 lead with 17:43 left. From there, the Bulldogs never got back within single digits and Upstate used a suffocating defense to force 20 turnovers and record seven steals in the half. Meanwhile, Hawkins went to work, scoring 11 points, converting all six of her attempts at the free throw line, and Richardson also added 10 points in the half. A 10-0 run started with 8:24 left in the game helped seal the game, as a layup from Wadelington closed out the run, giving Upstate a 73-49 lead with 5:52 left.
Even though, the Spartans shot just 37 (26-for-71) percent from the floor, they also did a solid job of holding down the Bulldogs, who hit just 34 percent (18-for-53) and took 18 shots less thanks to Upstate's 36-18 advantage in the turnover battle.
Besides the three players who finished in double-figures, four more players scored at least five points, led by nine points apiece from Wadelington and McRoberts. Wadelington finished with nine points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals and McRoberts finished with career-highs in both points, rebounds (eight) and steals (two). McMillan also narrowly missed a double-double, as she posted eight points, eight rebounds and notched a career-high five assists. Daniel added six points, five assists and two steals.
Riles led the Bulldogs with 11 points and seven rebounds and Thompson notched 10 points and eight rebounds. Linda Aughburns posted seven points, a game-high 10 rebounds and three steals and Kiana Rainey led the Bulldogs with two assists. Grace Blaylock also added nine points and three rebounds.
Upstate will get now get set for its last game before the semester break as it heads to Winston-Salem State on Tuesday for a 7 p.m. game against the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference foes.
Upstate is 10-6 (.625) in the D-I era (since 2007) in the month of November. The Spartans finished this season 4-2 (.667) in the month after going a perfect 4-0 in 2008-09. The 2007-08 squad was 2-4 in the month.
Upstate is 42-40 (.512) all-time against Big South schools and 24-15 (.615) at the Hodge Center.
Head coach Tammy George won her 49th career game in five seasons at USC Upstate, moving just one win shy of the mark of Tammy Holder, who won 50 games from 1988-91, for third in school history.
Senior Courtney Hawkins hit a 3-pointer to move just two treys away from becoming the fifth player in school history to reach 100 in a career.
Senior Courtney Hawkins picked up two steals to move just one steal away from tying Heather Abrams' seventh-best mark in school history of 161 steals set from 1993-97.
Ranked third in the conference in steals, freshman Tee'Ara Copney recorded two more thefts for Upstate, the third straight game she had at least two steals and the sixth straight in which she had at least one steal.
Junior Kim Pitman played 13 minutes in the post for the second straight game for Upstate, as the 6-2 center notched three rebounds and one point.
The win was also special for Coach Tammy George as she beat her former boss, Betsy Blose, who hired George as an assistant coach in 2002-03, Blose's first season at UNC Asheville and George's last as an assistant coach before taking the head job at Brevard in 2003-04.