Kent, Ohio (USC Upstate) – Torrey Craig scored 26 points and had nine rebounds and USC Upstate held on for an 83-74 victory over Niagara Thursday evening from the M.A.C. Center in the Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament on the Kent State campus.
Upstate led by as many as 26points in the second half only to see Niagara cut it to four points with just under three minutes remaining in the game. Michael Buchanan put the Spartans ahead 57-31 with an old fashioned three-point play just over four minutes into the second half. Niagara answered with an 11-0 run over the next 3:10 to trim the deficit to 15 points at the 12:15 mark.
The Spartans managed to push their lead back to 20 points on a pair of free throws by Ty Greene and a basket from Jodd Maxey with 8:31 remaining. Niagara, however, used an 18-5 run thereafter that included three 3-pointers from Antoine Mason to pull within seven points with just over four minutes to play. Mason finished with 31 points, which included 21 in the second half.
The Purple Eagles continued to chip away at the Upstate lead and pulled within four points twice in the final three minutes, but the Spartans managed to make enough free throws over the final 1:45 to hold on for the win. Greene finished 7-for-9 from the free throw line and Craig was 9-for-12 from the stripe.
Maxey added nine points, four assists and tied his career-high with 13 rebounds. Every Spartan that saw action against Niagara scored at least two points, including the first career baskets by newcomers ShunQuez Stephens and Karim Mawuenyega.
USC Upstate used three-pointers from Craig, Greene, Mario Blessing and Mawuenyega to race out to a 14-3 lead over the first 4:46 of the game. Niagara scored the next four points to cut the Spartan lead to 14-7, but Upstate quickly pushed its lead by to 14 points midway through the half and would lead by double digits for the majority of the period.
Two free throws from Rayvon Harris pulled Niagara to within 10 points with just over four minutes remaining in the half, but Upstate ended the period on a 15-6 run capped by a three-point from Greene with six seconds on the clock to lead 47-28 at halftime.
Upstate shot 55.2 percent from the field and 57.1 percent from three-point range in the first half and held Niagara scoreless from beyond the arc, limiting the Purple Eagles to 0-for-9 shooting from three-point range.
Craig scored 17 points and was a perfect 3-for-3 from three-point range to go along with four assists and one blocked shot.
USC Upstate returns to action Friday night at 7:30 p.m. against tournament host Kent State from the M.A.C. Center.
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