Newark, N.J. – The USC Upstate men's basketball team had five players finish with at least 10 points, led by 16 each from Jure Span and Ramel Thompkins, as the Spartans fell in their ASUN opener against the NJIT Highlanders, 98-87, on Saturday afternoon at the Wellness and Events Center.
Upstate falls to 5-13 on the season and 0-1 in conference play while NJIT improves to 8-8 overall and 1-0 in the league.
A LOOK AT THE NUMBERS
- The Spartans had five players score in double-figures for the first time since Nov. 25 versus Abilene Christian in the Creek Classic.
- Span and Thompkins both had a team-leading 16 points for Upstate while Malik Moore and Mike Cunningham added 15 apiece and Deion Holmes 11.
- Span concluded the game shooting 7-of-16 from the field while Moore, Cunningham and Thompkins all made six field goals.
- Holmes came off the bench to shoot 4-of-5 overall.
- Avery Diggs set a new career-high with nine rebounds to lead the Spartans defensively and Thompkins contributed eight.
- The Highlanders also had five players that scored in double-figures led by Anthony Tarke with a game-high 21 points.
- Reilly Walsh and Zach Cooks both had 15 points apiece for NJIT while Shawndale Jones posted 13 and Shyquan Gibbs 12.
- Jones grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.
- Upstate finished the game shooting 49.3 percent (33-of-67) overall and 42.9 percent (12-for-28) behind the 3-point line.
- The Spartans made 9-of-11 free throws for an 81.8 percent mark and outrebounded the Highlanders 35-32.
- Upstate held a 24-8 advantage in second chance points courtesy of 12 offensive rebounds.
- The Spartans also registered 32 points in the paint, 23 bench points, and six points on both fast breaks and turnovers.
FIRST HALF BREAKDOWN
- Upstate opened the game on an 8-3 run and led by five points at the 17:47 mark on a 3-pointer by Thompkins.
- Cunningham extended the Spartans lead to 11-5 less than a minute later with his triple and Thompkins added another 3-pointer to make the score 14-7 with 14:34 left.
- NJIT answered with an 11-0 run and took an 18-14 advantage with 12:20 remaining after Cooks knocked down a 3-pointer.
- The Highlanders later extended their lead out to 25-18 with 9:45 to go when Tarke made one of two free throws.
- After NJIT went ahead 33-25 on a Mohamed Bendary layup, Upstate used a Cunningham jumper and Moore 3-pointer to cut its deficit down to 33-30 with 5:42 left.
- The Highlanders would go back in front by six points but the Spartans benefitted from six straight points, all coming at the free throw line, to even the score at 39-39 with 2:19 left.
- NJIT scored the final five points of the half to lead 44-39 at intermission.
- Upstate went 9-for-9 at the charity stripe in the first half as well as 6-for-10 behind the 3-point line.
SECOND HALF BREAKDOWN
- The Spartans managed to cut the Highlanders lead down to five points, 46-41, less than a minute into the second half on Thompkins' jumper.
- NJIT would take a double-digit lead until Upstate got to within eight points twice.
- The Spartans saw a layup from Diggs trim their deficit down to 57-51 with 13:15 left.
- A layup by Thomas Booker kept Upstate's margin at six points, 59-53, less than two minutes later.
- The Highlanders then outscored the Spartans 16-6 over the next five minutes and took their largest lead of the game at 75-59 with 6:48 to go.
- NJIT would lead by 16 points twice after that with the last coming at 83-67 with 3:22 left on Taj Price's layup.
- Upstate got as close as 10 points two times over the final two minutes of play beginning at 83-73 at the 1:57 mark on Moore's layup.
- Moore later connected on a 3-pointer with 25 seconds remaining to put the score at 94-84.
- A 3-pointer from Thompkins with eight seconds left made the final score 98-87.
- The Spartans continue their three-game road trip to open conference play next Thursday, Jan. 11 at 7 p.m. against Florida Gulf Coast.
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