Upstate Defeats Morehead State behind Jefferson’s Career Night

December 18, 2014 at 9:01 am

Raven Jefferson scored a career-high 17 points as USC Upstate held off the Morehead State Eagles 75-69 for its ninth straight home victory Wednesday evening inside the Hodge Center.

Upstate improves to 6-5 on the season while Morehead State falls to 4-7.

Jefferson was one of four Spartans to finish in double-figures as she connected on 6-of-9 field goals and was 3-for-5 from three. Brittany Starling just missed on her third straight double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds, while Brittany Clency and Sharmayne Edwards contributed 13 and 12 points, respectively.

Eriel McKee finished with a double-double for the Eagles on 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Casey Ryans grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds. McKee was joined in double-digits by Maiki Viela (19) and Almesha Jones (16).

Upstate jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead to start the game, but Morehead State answered with six straight to go ahead 6-3 less than four minutes in on a jumper by Ryans. The teams traded the lead four times over the next two minutes before Viela’s layup put Morehead State back in front by three at 12-9. The Eagles held the three-point cushion until back-to-back three’s from Jefferson and Clency gave the Spartans a 17-14 advantage. Upstate kept the three-point lead for a majority of the opening half.

After Viela trimmed the Spartan lead to 21-20 with 5:40 left, the Spartans answered with another three by Jefferson and Edwards’s free-throw to extend their lead to five. Upstate led by as many as eight in the first half when Jefferson’s layup put the Spartans in front 31-23 at the 2:38 mark. Morehead State quickly got back to within one courtesy of an 11-4 run covering 58 seconds. Jones managed to tie the game 38-38, but Edwards sent Upstate into the locker room ahead by two following her layup with one second remaining.

The Spartans stretched their lead back to four twice during the first five minutes of the second half, only to see the Eagles come back to tie the game two minutes later when Viela’s free-throw evened the score at 45-45. Both teams stayed within one point of each other over the ensuing five minutes before Jefferson and Clency teamed up again to give Upstate a five-point lead, 54-49, with 9:09 left. A three-point play by Starling would put the Spartans in front 57-51.

Upstate was able to take a 67-59 lead with 3:38 to go on two free-throws from Clency, but Morehead State answered with a 10-3 run during a 2:41 stretch to cut it down to one-point game. Upstate prevented the Eagles from scoring the rest of the way as Clency, Edwards and Alex Stanford sealed the game with the final five points to give the Spartans a 75-69 victory.

Upstate converted on 25-of-64 field-goal attempts for a 39.1% mark as a team and went 20-for-33 at the free-throw line. USC Upstate limited Morehead State to no three-pointers, while shooting 24-of-63 (38.1%) overall and 21-for-24 (87.5%) at the charity stripe.

The Spartans held a 19-16 advantage over the Eagles in points off turnovers and led 41-6 in bench points.

Upstate closes out its three-game home stretch Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. against UNC Asheville.

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