Julian DeBose scored 18 points and Florida Gulf Coast hung on to beat USC Upstate 71-68 in front of a sellout crowd Thursday night from the Hodge Center.
Ty Greene gave USC Upstate its largest lead of the game when his layup put the Spartans ahead 57-54 with 6:26 remaining. Florida Gulf Coast answered with a dunk from Demetris Morant and a three-pointer from Jamail Jones to regain a two-point lead with just over five minutes left.
Greene evened the score 59-59 with a pair of free throws a minute later, but Florida Gulf Coast scored the next five points on a three-point play from Brett Comer and a putback by Morant to build a 64-59 lead.
The Eagles led 69-63 with 36 seconds left before a layup and a three-pointer from Josh Cuthbertson sandwiched in between one free throw by Comer left Upstate down 70-68 with 14 seconds remaining. After Comer put Florida Gulf Coast ahead by three with one of two free throws, Upstate missed two game-tying three-point attempts in the final five seconds.
Greene led all scorers with 26 points, including 19 in the second half, en route to his eighth 20-point game of the season. Cuthbertson added 11 points and Fred Miller finished with seven assists.
Bernard Thompson scored 14 points to go along with five rebounds and four steals for Florida Gulf Coast.
Florida Gulf Coast used four three-pointers in the first five minutes of the game to help build a 16-5 lead. Mario Blessing’s jumper at the 2:56 mark pulled Upstate within five points, but the Eagles used layups from DeBose and Thompson to push their lead back to nine at halftime.
Upstate opened the second half on a 13-4 run capped on an old fashioned three-point play from ShunQuez Stephens to even the score at 41. Upstate then forced Thompson into a missed three-pointer from the wing on the ensuing possession, but he responded by intercepting a Spartan outlet pass before hitting a layup and drawing a foul to put the Eagles right back up by three.
Greene gave Upstate its first lead of the game with just over seven minutes left when he slashed in for a layup while drawing a foul on Comer.
Upstate outshot and outrebounded Florida Gulf Coast, but the Eagles went 7-for-20 from three-point range and 16-for-21 from the free throw line.
The Spartans return to the court Saturday at 2 p.m. when Upstate hosts Stetson on Homecoming from the Hodge Center.