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Dec. 31, 2007
SPARTANBURG, S.C. - Junior guard Ebony Johnson (Columbia, S.C./Ridgeview) posted her second double-double of the season and fourth of her career, posting a game-high 12 points and a career-high 20 rebounds, as the USC Upstate women's basketball game overcame a seven-point deficit in the second half to defeat Bethune-Cookman, 52-50, in non-conference action on New Year's Eve at the Hodge Center.
The Spartans (4-6 overall) rallied from a 36-29 deficit with 14:22 left in the game by posting a 15-2 run that occupied the next five minutes to lead to the win. Johnson started and ended the run on layups, with the last layup coming in the corkscrew variety on a fastbreak after her block and rebound started the break.
The 5-7 Johnson became just the fifth player in school history to record a 20-rebound game and the first in the Division I era. The last time a USC Upstate player recorded 20 rebounds in a game was nearly 10 years ago, when Tammy Smith recorded 21 against Georgia College & State University on Jan. 10, 1998. The huge performance couldn't have come at a better time for Upstate, who is without their top rebounder, freshman Oceana Jackson (Carnesville, Ga./Franklin County) for the rest of the season after she tore her ACL in practice.
"Oh my gosh, I never find this stuff out until after the game," Johnson said of her performance. "Oceana was averaging seven rebounds a game, so somebody had to step up and do it."
"Ebony picked it up, obviously, on the boards," Upstate head coach Tammy George added. "She had a double-double. She did a great job, playing more minutes than she's probably used to playing. She picked up the slack and we needed that."
The Wildcats (3-8 overall) came within a point at 44-43 with 5:54 remaining, but Johnson fed sophomore Courtney Hawkins (Greer, S.C./Greer) on a 3-pointer from the left side with five seconds left on the shot clock to help the Spartans regain a four-point advantage. From there, the closest, the Wildcats could close within was two. Both teams struggled at the free throw line down the stretch, as the Spartans hit just 1-of-3 from the charity stripe in the last two minutes and the Wildcats hit just 1-of-2 shots.
The Spartan defense did a solid job of closing the door on the Wildcats, allowing just seven points in the final 5:00 minutes. The Wildcats got a final shot, with Jalisa Isaac taking a jumper with five seconds left, but Hawkins scrambled and got to the rebound and dribbled away as time expired to clinch the Spartan win.
The teams got off to a slow start before back-to-back 3-pointers from Bethune-Cookman's Keturah Newkirk opened up an eight-point lead at 21-13 with 8:50 left in the first half. The Wildcats lead got up to nine points with 6:07 left before the Spartans battled back with a 9-0 run to close the half. The run started on a fast-break layup by sophomore Shanea Wyant (Lafayette, Ind./Lafayette Jefferson) and a 3-pointer from junior Courtney Bradley (Columbia, S.C./Dutch Fork) cut the lead to four with 3:58 left. Hawkins added a layup and junior Kelly Westfield (St. Petersburg, Fla./St. Petersburg College) closed the scoring in the first half with two free throws to tie the game heading into the second stanza.
"We just never quit no matter what," George said. "We feel that we can shoot it well enough that we can always be in a game. We just kept fighting and good things happened for us."
The Spartans also got double-digit performances from Bradley, who finished with 10 points and pushed her Atlantic Sun Conference-leading assist average to 4.80 with five helpers. She also added a season-high four steals. Hawkins added 11 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals. Wyant posted seven points and four rebounds and junior Cherale Powell (Wilkesboro, N.C./Wilkes C.C.) added six points and three boards.
The Wildcats were led by Isaac, who posted 11 points and Natasha Ferguson, who posted a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Sarah Bolden added nine points and nine rebounds and Keturah Newkirk added nine points on three 3-pointers and also added five rebounds and four assists.
Upstate will get back on the road on Thursday when it travels to the Big South's Radford for a 7 p.m. tilt.
- USC Upstate is now 2-5 all-time against schools from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
- Sophomore Shanea Wyant now has 65 points on the season, surpassing the total from her freshman season (61) in just 10 games.
- Sophomore Courtney Hawkins became the 25th player in school history to reach 30 career 3-pointers with her first of two trifectas on Monday night.
- As if the 20 rebounds in one game weren't enough, junior Ebony Johnson also became the 35th player in school history to reach 250 career boards with her final rebound of the game.
- The game was the last women's basketball game played in the Eastern Time Zone in the calendar year 2007. Only a game between Cal State Fullerton and Santa Clara had a later starting time in Division I, tipping at 8 p.m. EST, but 5 p.m. PST.