SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Chelsea Lyles and Adrianne McNally (Brighton, Mich.) scored 21 points and 20 points, respectively, as the Florida Gulf Coast University women’s basketball team dropped its third Atlantic Sun Conference contest of the season with a 86-78 loss to USC Upstate at the Hodge Center Thursday night.
The Eagles (22-6, 17-3 A-Sun) forced the Spartans (19-9, 13-6 A-Sun) into 25 turnovers (15 in the first half), as USC Upstate defeated FGCU for the first time (FGCU leads all-time series 4-1). With a win the Blue and Green could have secured their second consecutive Atlantic Sun Regular Season Title and a third consecutive birth to the Postseason WNIT.
In order to win the A-Sun Regular Season Title and secure an automatic bid to the WNIT this week, the Eagles will need ETSU to lose at Jacksonville on Saturday, Feb. 28. If ETSU wins at Jacksonville on Saturday, the only way that FGCU could earn an automatic bid to the WNIT is if the Lady Bucs win the A-Sun Conference Tournament.
With Upstate leading 17-14, the Eagles used an 11-1 run to take a seven point lead (25-18) with 8:23 remaining. The Spartans responded by outscoring FGCU 16-9 over the next 6:36 to tie the game at 34 (1:47 remaining). The Blue and Green would get a pair of free throws from Shannon Murphy (Brighton, Mich.) and one from Chelsea Lyles (Colorado Springs, Col.) to take a 37-34 lead with 27 second left in the first half.
A three-pointer from Upstate’s Tee’Ara Copney with two seconds left on the game clock made the score 37-37 as the teams went into the locker room at intermission.
The Eagles shot just 13-of-40 (32.5-percent) from the field in the first half, while the Spartans shot 14-of-27 (51.9-percent) from the floor in the first 20 minutes.
Lyles scored a layup with 19:15 remaining in the game to give the Blue and Green a 39-37 lead. Upstate then used an 11-0 run over the next 3:04 to take a 48-39 lead and the Spartans would never trail again in the contest. FGCU would cut Upstate’s lead down to two points on four different occasions, but the Spartans held off the Eagles to take the 86-78 win.
FGCU shot only 23-of-60 (38.3-percent) from the field and 7-of-20 from three-point range (35.0-percent), while the Spartans shot 26-of-45 (57.8-percent) from the floor and 4-of-9 (44.4-percent) from long range, but the tale of the game was the play of USC Upstate’s guards and their bench. The Spartans guards scored 63 of the team’s 86 points, while Upstate’s bench outscored FGCU’s bench 35-13.
The Blue and Green are back in action Saturday, Mar. 6 when they take on Seattle in the first of two games in the Longwood Tournament in Farmville, Va. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m.