November 26, 2007

Preview: USC UpState

It's been a rough introduction to Division 1 basketball for USC Upstate. Since making the jump from D-II this year, the Spartans have gotten off to a rocky 0-5 start and have an RPI ranking of 319 (out of 341 teams). To help the transition, Upstate has brought in nine new players this year. It's safe to say the Bearcats are not going to get a very stern test in their last home game before a tough three-game road swing.

In their five games, the Spartans' closest game has been a 64-60 loss to Akron. Their other four losses were by an average of 20 points. In fact, the only lead they've had on the season was early in the Oregon State game, but quickly fell behind for good after an 18-2 Beaver run. Simply put, USC Upstate is not very good.

The Spartans are led by 6-2 senior guard Luke Payne who averages 14 points and 2.2 assists per game. Saturday night against UNC Greensboro, Payne passed the 1,000 point mark for his career, ranking him 17th on the all-time scoring list at USC Upstate. Payne also ranks fifth all-time with 134 three-pointers and in the top 10 in threes attempted, free throws made, and assists.

His backcourt mate, 5-11 senior guard Jeremy Byrd, averages 6.5 points per game but he's not most dangerous on the offensive end. The defensive side is where Byrd excels. With 286 steals in his career, Byrd ranks No. 1 on the USC Upstate all-time list. Byrd did not play Saturday night against Greensboro, however, for reasons undisclosed.

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