SPARTANBURG – Tionna Carter scored a season-high 20 points, and Presbyterian figured out how to sweep the floor in a 66-53 victory over USC Upstate on Sunday.
In a series, that is.
As a response to COVID-19 concerns, the Big South Conference switched to consecutive games, both at one site, this season. PC split each of the first three. Polishing off the Spartans – the Saturday score was 60-50 – marked the Blue Hose’ first sweep.
Maleia Bracone scored a career-best 18 points for PC. Also in double digits were Trinity Johnson (15) and Compton (11). Compton snared a career-high 15 rebounds, while Nyah Willis grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds.
Dakota McCaughan paced the Spartans with 13 points, and Molly Coleman led on the glass with nine rebounds.
The Blue Hose shot 12-of-57 (36.8 percent) from the floor, while the Spartans went 19-of-58 (32.8 percent). PC connected on 20-of-25 (80.0 percent) at the free throw line, the second-most free throw makes and attempts Presbyterian (6-4, 5-3 conference) has had in a game this season.
PC committed a season-low 12 turnovers and owned a 45-36 advantage on the glass. PC also enjoyed a 34-20 edge in points in the paint.
The means of ignition was a 14-0 third-quarter run after PC led by three at halftime.
“We made some adjustments at halftime, and it took us a little bit to execute those adjustments,” head coach Alaura Sharp said. “We talked about it at the media timeout (16:00).
“We were trying to get some high-low action, and Tionna (Carter) did a good job with that in the third quarter. It’s tough against USCU to get baskets in the paint. They do a really good job of cluttering the paint. We haven’t been shooting the ball very well from the outside. “It took us some time adjust and find our rhythm.”
USC Upstate (3-10, 1-7) briefly leveled the score at 30-30, but Jade Compton hit a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired, and Bracone hit back-to-back 3-pointers as part of the decisive Blue Hose rally. The Presbyterian defense kept Upstate off the scoreboard for over four minutes, and Presbyterian led by as many as 16 before ending the quarter with a 51-39 edge.
From there, the Blue Hose hung on.
“We’ve gotten away from our defensive game plan in the fourth quarter. We found ourself with an 11-point lead with Radford in the fourth quarter, and an 11-point lead with Charleston Southern in the fourth quarter,” Sharp said. ‘[Sunday] we did a better job of sticking to our defensive game plan when we got a little rattled in the fourth quarter.”
Johnson handed out a game-high eight assists, a new season high, and one shy of her career high. The Blue Hose are now 6-1 this season when scoring 60 or more points.
“Back-to-back games are tough, and we just finished six games in 11 or 12 days,” Sharp said. “All of ours have been on the road. We’ve had a really tough stretch, and we play a lot of kids a lot of minutes. It takes toughness to close out a game.
“This year takes a lot of grit. You don’t get the practice that you want. You don’t get to do things outside of practice as a team. They haven’t seen my mouth since last year. They haven’t seen me smile. There are just a lot of things that are tricky. Another tough part about the back-to-back games is when you win the first one, you don’t even get to celebrate. There’s just not the same excitement about it.”
PC returns home to face Campbell in a 2-game Big South Conference series beginning on Friday at 6 p.m.