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Inconsistent Hampton stumbles at USC Upstate

The SportsXchange

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Hampton began both halves in productive fashion Wednesday at South Carolina Upstate, but in both instances, the Pirates couldn't successfully finish what they'd started.

As a result, the Spartans beat the Pirates 68-49 in a non-conference game.

USC Upstate (6-7) was finally able to break open a close game midway through the second half despite some prolonged bouts of sloppiness. Once the Spartans seized control, they never let the Pirates back in.

"We win by 19 after turning it over 24 times and shooting 55 percent from the free-throw line, so I've got to figure out a way to find a positive in the victory," USCU coach Eddie Payne said. "I guess the biggest positives were the way we rebounded and our defense was solid throughout the game."

As for the abundance of turnovers, Payne said, "They switched a lot on us defensively and we didn't react well and we got impatient and turned it over."

Hampton (2-10) quickly fought back from a nine-point halftime deficit, opening the second half with a 13-4 run to tie the game at 38-38. With momentum appearing to be slipping toward the visitors, Upstate took command with its own 10-1 spurt, jumpstarted by consecutive 3-pointers by Ty Greene and Torrey Craig.

The Pirates went just over six minutes without a field goal after tying the game, allowing the Spartans to get out in transition, which led to several fast-break baskets. When Mario Blessing scored his only points of the game on a baseline jumper, USC Upstate increased the lead to 61-43 with 2:40 remaining.

"Their run was on free throws after the point we had tied the game, and that kind of stopped our momentum and gave it to them," Hampton coach Edward Joyner Jr. said. "You've got to give them credit for way they responded because we came out and we got started right in the first half and then went south offensively, and the same thing happened in the second half."

The Spartans held the Pirates to 33 percent shooting overall and 21 percent from 3-point range. USC Upstate also dominated the boards by a 46-32 count.

Greene led the Spartans with 17 points. Craig scored 15, and Jodd Maxey added 13. Adrian Rodgers and Fred Miller contributed five assists apiece for USC Upstate, while Ricardo Glenn had seven points and 11 rebounds.

Du'Vaughn Maxwell led Hampton with 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Ramon Mercado added eight points.

The night's key discrepancy came at the free-throw line, where USCU made 16 of 29, while the Pirates attempted only 11 foul shots, making six.

"We did a nice job of taking care of the ball and getting some high-percentage shots, but if we'd made some free throws, it could have been a lot easier," Payne said.

Glenn, who missed his fourth consecutive double-double, scoring seven points, said his team's ability to increase the tempo with defensive intensity was crucial.

"We tried to buckle down more defensively and start working more as a unit, lock in on our man and really get focused," Glenn said. "It seemed like when we speeded up the pace and started pressuring defensively, our traps shut them down and we really went for the kill, attacking as hard as we could."

USCU closed the first half on a 10-0 run to take a 34-25 lead into intermission.

Hampton had retaken the lead at 25-24, the fourth lead change over a two-minute span, before Maxey's jumper and Miller's fast-break dunk preceded a pair of 3-pointers by Craig to close out the half. Craig hit his second 3-pointer at the buzzer after USC Upstate forced a turnover with a mid-court trap.

The Spartans made only four of their first 16 field-goal attempts before converting eight of their final 14 before halftime.

Hampton scored the game's first eight points, including a pair of 3-pointers by guard Jasper Williams, while holding USC Upstate scoreless over the opening 4:38. The Spartans didn't record a field goal until Maxey's banker in the lane with 14:20 left in the half.

"We just need to stop waiting until we get down so much to play hard and tough," Maxwell said. "We had that 8-0 run and really could've run the score up more but didn't continue playing as tough as we needed to. I think it was quite obvious that we were a bit startled when they started pressuring us, and we had turnovers that led to layups for them."

NOTES: Hampton failed to reach 50 points for only the second time this season. The Pirates scored 43 in their previous game, a loss to Winthrop. ... The Spartans have won 12 consecutive home games after entering the game tied for the nation's 16th-longest such streak. ... After sinking his first two tries in the opening minutes of the game, Williams missed his final nine shots. ... Craig has scored at least 10 points in every game this season and 31 of his last 33.
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