IN LOOKING FOR AN #ALLCAPSDAY DOUBLEHEADER IN THE CAROLINAS, I HAD SEVERAL OPTIONS TO GO WITH. I COULD HAVE GONE TO CHARLOTTE, BUT I HAD ALREADY BEEN THERE. THERE WAS ALSO CCU AT WINTHROP GAME, BUT WITH IT BEING 4 P.M., IT DIDN'T LEAVE MUCH TIME TO GET TO ANOTHER GAME. THERE WERE THE THREE GAMES IN CHARLESTON, BUT JOE WRIGHT AND IAN MCCORMICK LOOKED TO HAVE THOSE WELL COVERED. I DECIDED I WANTED TO TRY A PLACE I HADN'T BEEN TO BEFORE SO I CHOSE ON SEEING JACKSONVILLE AT USC-UPSTATE IN THE AFTERNOON AND LIBERTY AT PRESBYTERIAN IN THE EVENING.
I had never been to Spartanburg before, so I had to do a bit of research before I went. It would be about 4 hours to get there, making it my longest drive of the season to date, so I had to find some decent radio stations to pass the time. (Congrats and all to mid-major star Jeremy Lin, but I had to hear about him for about seven of the eight hours I was in the car...yeesh!)
There was also the issue of food, since I like to always try local favorites, so I sent a tweet asking where to go in Spartanburg. I quickly got a bunch of responses including from fellow 800GPer Ross Lancaster to go to the Beacon Drive-In. It was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, so I knew I had to give it a try. My double chili cheeseburger was about as big as my head, but was quite good. The sweet tea, which is a southern staple that I'm not usually a fan of, was also as good as advertised.
After my hearty meal I drove over to the USC-Upstate campus. Much like every other time I'm at a university for the first time, I can't seem to find the arena. It doesn't help that this was the smallest arena in Division 1 either. I figured I'd look up a campus map online, but to log in as a guest at USC-U you have to call and get a username and password. Since it was Saturday, there was obviously no one there to answer and the recording referred me to the Upstate website to gain access...ugh. I eventually just drove and tried to read the signs around campus, which were low to the ground and had small lettering, adding to the difficulty, but I finally found the arena.
The Hodge Center is very small, but it is a lot nicer than some of the other tiny arenas I've been to with the cushioned seats and two scoreboards on opposite ends. While the the Spartans have a tough time selling out, they reached capacity tonight, mainly because it was Homecoming. There were no festivities at halftime though, as they were saving those for the women's game that was going to follow.
I didn't know much about Upstate going into the game except that I heard a few good things about Torrey Craig, who seemed like a do-it-all type of player for the Spartans. That seemed like a wealth of knowledge compared to what I knew about the Jacksonville Dolphins, which was nothing other than they were still fighting to become the eighth and final team to make it to the A-Sun Tournament.
Signs towards a good game weren't on display in the early going, as Jacksonville seemed to be very weak on defense, but it was no matter since the Spartans missed five early layups. The Dolphins took advantage, but not by as much as they could have. I was impressed with Jacksonville's interior passing when they seemed to be making the right pass for open looks. If Jacksonville would have just stuck with that, they could have blown the game open, but they took too many unnecessary threes and missed all of them in the first half, going 0-for-7.
Torrey Craig was not missing on his threes around midway through though, but the PA's high-pitched "T C FOR THRREEEEEEE" anytime he made one was a bit annoying. Maybe he was just as excited for #ALLCAPSDAY as I was.
Craig is an impressive=looking player that blends in a good shot with big time athleticism. He'll also rebound and distribute so he was quite the steal for the D-I transitioning Spartans. He was the main reason they were able to come back and tie the Dolphins at the half.
After a somewhat lackadaisical first 20 minutes, the two teams revved up some going into the second half. Craig and Jacksonville's Aloys Cabell were dueling in a strong offensive effort, but the Dolphins turned the tides in their favor about four minutes in. Glenn Powell became a beast down low and threw down two dunks. He was then intentionally fouled on the next possession and was able to sink both free throws. He extended the ensuing possession from the technical alive after getting fouled going for an offensive rebound. Cabell would make a three, making it a five-point trip, but he wasn't done, as he had a four-point play the next time down. What was a two-point game went to 47-34 in a hurry.
Upstate wasn't going to fold on Homecoming though, as Jacksonville started shooting themselves in the foot with four straight offensive fouls. The Spartans could have been back in the game in a hurry, but they were 3-for-15 from the foul line at one point, really hampering the comeback. Despite the poor free-throw shooting, the Spartans would take the lead with an Adrian Rogers three-point play with under five minutes to go.
The rest of the game would be decided by several trips to the free-throw line for both teams. I thought the Spartans would be in trouble, but they ended up making 10 of their last 11. It was the Dolphins who faltered late at the line, missing two key freebies, leading to a 70-66 win for the Spartans.
It's too bad Upstate is four hours away ,since this is an interesting team to watch, especially when they are firing on all cylinders. Craig is a unique talent and I'm glad I got to see my first Atlantic Sun game on #ALLCAPSDAY.
at SOUTH CAROLINA-UPSTATE 70, JACKSONVILLE 66 02/11/2012
JACKSONVILLE 5-20 (3-11) -- A. Cabell 6-13 8-11 23; R. Powell 2-5 0-0 4; G. Powell 6-8 2-2 14; D. Graham 2-6 6-6 10; T. Galvin 2-3 2-2 6; E. Graham 0-1 0-0 0; J. Bogus 1-5 2-2 4; C. Davis 1-3 1-2 3; J. Geisler 1-4 0-0 2; S. Jeffers 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-48 21-25 66. SOUTH CAROLINA-UPSTATE 16-10 (9-4) -- T. Greene 2-5 6-6 11; T. Craig 7-13 3-7 20; R. Glenn 4-8 1-2 9; M. Blessing 2-4 2-2 7; A. Rodgers 4-10 1-1 9; J. Maxey 4-7 0-4 8; R. Elam 1-2 0-0 2; B. Olumuyiwa 0-2 0-2 0; F. Miller 1-2 0-2 2; C. Rogers 1-3 0-0 2; C. Cook 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 26-57 13-26 70.
Three-point goals: JAX 3-18 (R. Powell 0-1; T. Galvin 0-1; C. Davis 0-1; A. Cabell 3-7; E. Graham 0-1; J. Bogus 0-4; J. Geisler 0-3), SCU 5-9 (C. Rogers 0-1; T. Craig 3-5; T. Greene 1-2; M. Blessing 1-1); Rebounds: JAX 22 (R. Powell 5), SCU 34 (T. Craig 10); Assists: JAX 10 (A. Cabell 3), SCU 12 (T. Greene 4); Total Fouls -- JAX 25, SCU 17; Fouled Out: JAX-D. Graham; SCU-J. Maxey.