Back in non-conference play, the USC Upstate Spartans burst onto the scene with some big performances over power programs. The Spartans knocked off the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on the road, and took down Mississippi State on a neutral court just a couple of weeks later. Even in their losses this season, the team has been competitive. Seven of their eight losses this season have been by 10 points or less. USC Upstate entered Thursday night having won six of their past seven games, and were looking for a season sweep over the Stetson Hatters.
In non-conference action, the Hatters struggled to score any wins over Division I opponents not named Florida A&M. Stetson was only able to knock off the Rattlers in non-conference action against Division I teams, and they did it twice. They then opened Atlantic Sun play with five straight losses before reeling off a three-game winning streak. Their winning streak was highlighted by a big non-conference win over their instate rivals, the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats. Since then, they have three straight games, and entered Thursday night looking to avenge their 91 – 67 loss to the Spartans back on January 24th.
On Thursday, the Spartans were up to their old tricks, rolling over the Hatters to the tune of a 73 – 54 victory in Deland, Florida.
Grant Lozoya opened the game with some strong shooting from long distance for the Hatters, connecting on two early three pointers to stake Stetson to the early 6 – 4 lead. Then, Fred Miller started to make his presence felt for the Spartans, and USC Upstate started to take over.
Miller would make a pair of free throws before the first media timeout. Out of the break, he would connect on two three-pointers of his own to push the Spartans to a 14 – 7 lead over the hometown Hatters.
Stetson would try to chip away at the lead, but the Spartans always had an answer on the offensive end. A pair of three pointers from Josh Cuthbertson and another from ShunQuez Stephens pushed the Spartans’ lead to 11, at 23 – 12.
Divine Myles would make a jumper and Brian Pegg would make a layup to bring the Hatters to within four points with just over 6 minutes left in the half, but the Spartans would once again pull away. Four points would be as close as the Hatters would get in the first half, as USC Upstate kept on rolling. The Spartans had a 16-point lead before Myles made a three-pointer in the closing seconds to give the Hatters a bit of positive momentum heading into the break.
At half-time, the USC Upstate Spartans found themselves sitting comfortably with a 39 – 26 lead over the hometown Stetson Hatters.
To open the second half, the Hatters held the Spartans off the scoreboard for over three minutes, and they trimmed the lead down to 10 points in the process. However, the Hatters weren’t able to quite cut the lead down to single digits.
Divine Myles would score five straight points for the Hatters to trim the deficit to 11, but layups from Jacob Schulte and Josh Cuthbertson put the Spartans back in front by 15 points.
That’s when the Hatters gained some sustained positive momentum, and were able to finally trim the lead down to single digits. A Brian Pegg jumper with 7:04 to play trimmed the deficit to 8 points, at 54 – 46. Michael Buchanan and Fred Miller recorded back-to-back layups for the Spartans, and the lead was quickly back to double-digits.
USC Upstate closed the game on a 13 – 5 run to put the game out of reach for the Hatters, and secure the program’s 20th win of the season.
The Spartans bent, but never broke in the second half, as they rolled over the Hatters and came away with a 73 – 54 victory.
On Thursday night, the Spartans had five different players score in double figures in the win. Fred Miller led the way, scoring a game-high 17 points in the win. Josh Cuthbertson added in 14 points and 9 rebounds off the bench, while Ty Greene added 14 points of his own.
For the Hatters, it wasn’t all bad on this night, as freshman guard Divine Myles continued his development into a star guard in the Atlantic Sun conference. Myles scored a team-high 16 points in the loss. Grant Lozoya added in 14 points of his own, while Kentwan Smith scored 13 points, but it wasn’t enough to lead the Hatters to a home victory.
The USC Upstate Spartans (20 – 8, 7 – 4) are still in the thick of things in the Atlantic Sun standings. They will look to close out the season strong over their past three games, starting with a road date against the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles on Saturday.
Thursday night marked the fourth straight loss for the Stetson Hatters (8 – 19, 2 – 9), who know find themselves alone in last place in the conference standings. They will look to bounce back in their next time out when they take on the Kennesaw State Owls inside the Edmunds Center in Deland, FL on Saturday.