The USC Upstate men’s basketball team carries a three-game winning streak into its conference opener on Saturday afternoon when the Spartans host the NJIT Highlanders at 2 p.m. from the G.B. Hodge Center.
Upstate closed out non-conference play on Monday with an 84-75 victory on the road at UMKC behind a career-high 24 points from Mike Cunningham. Cunningham scored 23 of his 24 points in the second half and tied his career-best of eight made field goals. The Spartans also had three other players score in double-figures in Malik Moore (15), Michael Buchanan (12) and Philip Whittington (10). Buchanan recorded his eighth double-double of the season after pulling down a game-high 12 rebounds.
Upstate concluded the game shooting 46.8 percent (29-of-62) as a team highlighted by a 20-for-31 (64.5 percent) mark in the second half. The Spartans also held a 41-30 advantage in rebounds. Upstate led 36-30 in points in the paint, 19-6 in points off turnovers and 10-5 in fast break points.
NJIT is under the direction of first-year head coach Brian Kennedy, and have earned wins this season over Sarah Lawrence, Colgate, Idaho State, Saint Francis, UMass Lowell, Dean College, Stony Brook and Brown. The Highlanders are currently on a three-game winning streak. Damon Lynn leads the team in scoring this season with 21.8 points per game while Tim Coleman contributes 7.6 rebounds per contest.
The Spartans are facing NJIT for the third time in program history with Upstate holding a 2-0 lead in the all-time series. The Spartans swept the season series from the Highlanders last year capped by a 72-71 victory in the regular season finale in Spartanburg.
Fans can follow the action on www.upstatespartans.com via live stats. The game is being streamed live on WatchESPN and the ESPN app. Updates will also be posted on the Upstate men’s basketball Twitter page (@UpstateMB).
The Spartans remain in conference play at home on Thursday, Jan. 12 when they entertain North Florida at 7 p.m.