USC Upstate (1-2) vs. Niagara (1-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, November 21, 5 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: M.A.C. Center (6,327) -- Kent, Ohio. Television: None. Home Record: USC Upstate 0-0, Niagara 1-0. Away Record: USC Upstate 1-2, Niagara 0-1. Neutral Record: USC Upstate 0-0, Niagara 0-0. Conference Record: USC Upstate 0-0, Niagara 0-0. Series Record: First meeting.
GAME NOTES: The USC Upstate Spartans and the Niagara Purple Eagles will square off for the first time in history as they meet in the opening round of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at the M.A.C. Center in Kent, Ohio.
The other schools included in the round-robin tournament field are Kent State and Western Carolina.
USC Upstate enters the M.A.C. Center following a 74-65 setback at Tennessee on Saturday. The Spartans held a nine-point lead with just over 12 minutes left in regulation before allowing the Volunteers to end the contest on a 26-8 run. USC Upstate managed to knock off a major conference program in its season opener as it downed Virginia Tech (64-63), but lost to Winthrop its next time out by eight points.
Niagara had a strong campaign in 2012-13, going 19-14 overall and winning the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular-season title, but with the loss of several key players as well as its head coach Joe Mihalich to Hofstra, expectations have been tempered for the new year. However, after a season- opening loss to Seton Hall, coach Chris Casey managed to lead his team to a 92-81 victory over Bobby Hurley's Buffalo Bulls.
Torrey Craig has been on fire for the Spartans, pouring in 51 points over his past two outings. USC Upstate managed to build a double-digit lead in Knoxville by hitting on 62.1 percent of its field goal tries in the opening 20 minutes. It cooled off in the second stanza to convert only 26.9 percent of its shots from the floor and missed all nine of its 3-point field goal attempts after halftime. Defensively, the Spartans did a tremendous job as the Volunteers hit on only 35.1 percent of their shots from the field in the contest. Craig led the team with 20 points while Ty Greene tallied 15 points while playing the entire contest. Craig is carrying averages of 21.3 points and eight rebounds per tilt. Greene is adding 17.7 ppg and four apg, while Ricardo Glenn is scoring 10.3 ppg on 55 percent field-goal efficiency.
A few of the key players for the Purple Eagles left over the off-season, but Casey still has a star to work with thanks to the return of Antoine Mason, who is averaging 29.5 ppg through his first two outings. Ramone Snowden has also been on point, averaging a double-double with 11 points and 11.5 boards per tilt. Niagara's offensive tests the opposition which led to 40 free-throw attempts versus Buffalo. The Purple Eagles sank 29 of their shots from the charity stripe to overcome a 3-of-11 clip from beyond the arc. Mason poured in 25 points versus Buffalo, while Snowden and sixth man Tahjere McCall added 15 each. Marcus Ware fouled out after 19 minutes, but not before he scored 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting from the floor.
Both of these teams have been playing good basketball to start the season despite their unappealing overall records. This could be one of the most evenly matched games on Thursday's college basketball schedule. Although Mason has been on fire, USC Upstate has a slight edge due to Craig's dominance on the inside.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: USC Upstate 77, Niagara 74
11/21 10:34:35 ET