Big Shots Lead USC Upstate Past Longwood in Big South Showdown


Photo: USC UPSTATE ATHLETICS

Spartanburg, SC-- Here at Stranded Sports, we are trying something new: Watching and writing recaps of college basketball games from smaller conferences and programs. During times like these, we believe that it is important to shed some light on all teams battling through the current circumstances, not just the big programs.


It is games like this where the absence of a crowd is apparent. Monday’s Big South clash between Longwood Lancers (2-8, 1-4) and USC Upstate Spartans (2-9, 2-3) featured back and forth action for all 40 minutes. By the final horn of the up-tempo contest, Upstate scampered away with a 71-69 victory.


A narrow win seemed like a far fetched concept when the Spartans jumped out to a 16-7 lead in the first half. Bryson Mozone and Nevin Zink contributed to the lead early, with a big three-pointer from Everette Hammond serving as the dagger.


No lead was safe in this game, though, as a layup from Ilija Stefanovic sparked a string of successful offensive possessions for the Lancers. Key players such as Justin Hill and Juan Munoz began getting involved in the scoring as well.


With 7:34 to play in the half, Hill managed to get a contact layup to fall and get the foul called in the process. He buried the ensuing free throw to give Longwood the lead for the first time since the 18:31 mark.


The lead for the Lancers would be short-lived thanks to Zink pulling down an offensive rebound and scoring off of teammate Dalvin White’s missed free throw.


Munoz found space and converted on a jumper to swing the lead back to Longwood, a lead that they slowly expanded on as halftime approached.


A roughly half-second difference between the shot clock and game clock meant that Tommy Bruner had just enough time to collect a pass from Carter Jernigan and heave up a shot from halfcourt following a miss from Longwood’s DeShaun Wade. Bruner’s shot banked off the backboard and sank through the net to trim the Longwood lead to just two points, 32-30, as the team’s headed into halftime.


The Lancers were outscoring the Spartans by eight in the paint, but Upstate proved that they were more than comfortable with their ability to shoot the three-ball in the second half.


Dalvin White wanted the team’s momentum to remain intact following the halfcourt shot to close the first half. His triple to put the Spartans ahead did just that. Even after Longwood clawed ahead once again, White hit another dagger to even the game up minutes later.


Upstate then faced a serious setback when Nevin Zink was removed from the game and headed over to the trainer with over 13 minutes remaining in the game. Stefanovic, much like the first half, made some key shots down low, taking advantage of Zink’s absence.


Further imitating the first half, the Lancers were unable to really break the game open. Their lead hovered between just one or two possessions for a few minutes before Juan Munoz connected with a three-pointer that finally seemed to solidify themselves as being the team in permanent control.


Upstate refused to let Longwood pull away, as White sank a three-pointer following a make from Bruner and an empty possession from the Lancers. Suddenly, Upstate was behind by just one possession, 49-46.


Another string of makes from Longwood pushed their lead back to seven points, but White and Bruner each made a triple to get the Spartans within one point of the lead. A Khydarius Smith layup gave Upstate their long-awaited lead, but Longwood answered back and pulled ahead yet again.


Living and dying by the three-ball is seen quite often in basketball these days, but Upstate continued to live off of it in the second half. Hammond got two more treys to fall and keep hopes alive for Upstate.

As time dropped just below the one minute mark, Bruner hit a three to put the Spartans ahead 68-66.


Munoz turned the ball over as Longwood tried to even the game, but Hammond converted on just one of his free throws and kept hopes alive for the opposition. Hope ran out when Wade heaved up a fadeaway three that ended up in the hands of Dalvin White.


Following foul shots and yet another buzzer-beater to make the loss look even more painful, Upstate walked away with a 71-69 victory.


In a smaller gym such as the G.B. Hodge Center, where this game was played, the intensity and tightness of this game would have defined what college basketball is all about. Although that aspect of the game is missing, there is no denying that any level of the sport can bring out an emotional and intense result.


Longwood shot 50% from the field in the losing effort, Upstate shot 47%. The Spartans narrowly won the rebound battle, pulling down 33 boards compared to Longwood’s 31.


Heru Bligen led the Lancers in scoring with 12 points off of the bench. That number topped Upstate’s entire bench, who had 10 points off the bench, all of which came from Khydarius Smith. Tommy Bruner led the way for Upstate, scoring 19 points.


After losing nine straight games to open the season, Upstate has now won two games in a row in Big South play.


The two teams are set to run it back tomorrow at 6 p.m.






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