USC Upstate (19-13) at Mercer (24-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, March 6, 8:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: University Center (3,500) -- Macon, Georgia. Television: CSS, ESPN.com. Home Record: USC Upstate 12-2, Mercer 16-1. Away Record: USC Upstate 5-11, Mercer 8-7. Neutral Record: USC Upstate 2-0, Mercer 0-0. Conference Record: USC Upstate 11-7, Mercer 14-4. Series Record: Mercer leads, 11-3.
GAME NOTES: With a berth in the championship game on the line, the second- seeded Mercer Bears will play host to the third-seeded USC Upstate Spartans at the University Center on Thursday night in the semifinal round of the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament.
USC Upstate managed to edge out sixth-seeded North Florida in the quarterfinals earlier in the week, 80-74, giving it four wins in its past five games dating back to the regular season. The Spartans have enjoyed a stellar season at 19-13, but they have not fared so well going on the road at just 5-11.
Mercer made easy work of Jacksonville in the quarterfinal round, 85-64, for its second win over the Dolphins in as many games after losing two of three to end February. The Bears are now 24-8 overall and have won 16 of their 17 matchups in Macon.
In the two-game series during the regular season, each team won on its home floor. Mercer holds an 11-3 lead in the all-time series, but USC Upstate snapped a 10-game series losing streak with an 80-61 home victory on Feb. 2.
The Spartans held a lead as large as 14 early in the second half of their quarterfinal-round matchup, and while UNF got to within five late in the game, the deficit proved to be insurmountable. Although they shot a mere 1-of-10 from 3-point range on the evening, the made up for it by shoot 47.5 percent overall, knocking down 23-of-33 at the free-throw line and converting 18 UNF turnovers into 22 points. Ricardo Glenn led the way with 22 points and nine rebounds, Ty Greene made 10-of-11 the foul line on his way to 14 points off the bench and Fred Miller and Jodd Maxey had 13 and 12 points, respectively.
USC Upstate boasts a stellar offensive attack this season, shooting 45.3 percent from the field for 73.7 ppg, which has been enough to support a solid defensive effort (.406, 69.0 ppg). Torrey Craig is one of the league's best playmakers with 16.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg and nearly a block and a steal per contest. Greene brings 14.5 ppg and 3.5 apg to the table, while Glenn (13.5 ppg, 8.0 rpg) and Maxey (8.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.2 bpg, 1.2 spg) make up a strong frontcourt duo.
After falling behind Jacksonville early in its latest bout, Mercer surged ahead by nine at the half and were even stronger in the second stanza as it captured the convincing 19-point victory. It was a stellar shooting performance all around for the club, as it made 50 percent of its field goal tries while making 10-of-21 from beyond the arc and 19-of-23 at the free- throw line. Anthony White Jr. paced the effort with a career-best 29 points on 11-of-15 from the field. Bud Thomas tallied 18 points (on 6-of-10 from 3- point range) and nine rebounds, Jakob Gollon netted 10 points and Langston Hall dished out 10 assists.
The Bears have been the A-Sun's most well-rounded team by a wide margin this season, as they shoot 48.1 percent from the field, hold opponents to only 39.9 percent shooting and boast an outstanding +13.4 scoring margin. Hall is not only the top scoring threat at 14.5 ppg but he also leads the league in assists with 5.7 per outing. Daniel Coursey shoots 58.9 percent from the field for 10.0 ppg to go with 6.6 rpg and Thomas brings 9.6 ppg to the mix.
USC Upstate may have gotten the best of Mercer in the latest matchup, but heading into the University Center will be no easy task for the Spartans. Figure for the Bears to exact revenge and advance to the title game to play either East Tennessee State or Florida Gulf Coast.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Mercer 75, USC Upstate 69
03/06 10:32:14 ET