COLUMBIA — Former South Carolina assistant coach Eddie Payne walked around the Colonial Life Arena floor shaking any hand he could find Thursday.
Payne had just finished watching his USC Upstate squad win its first-ever game over an SEC opponent with a 74-68 victory over South Carolina behind a 21-point effort from senior Ricardo Glenn. Payne was trying to take in the monumental win for his program, but he wasn’t overwhelmed with the accomplishment.
“I think this might be a little different than in the past because our program has advanced to a certain level,” Payne said. “The big thing was we were down on the road against an SEC opponent and we managed to stay in there and chip away. All-in-all, it was terrific win for us.”
USC Upstate (6-5) came in 0-8 all-time against opponents from the SEC. They came close to breaking that streak earlier this year when they held a nine-point second-half lead against Tennessee before falling 74-65.
But they withstood a late rally by South Carolina (2-5) this time.
Trailing 52-51 with 7:40 remaining, the Spartans used a 10-2 run to forge ahead. Glenn got things rolling with a lay-up, Ty Greene drained a jumper and added two free throws before Glenn and Torrey Craig – the former Great Falls standout – had back-to-back rebound baskets to make it 61-54 with 4:49 remaining.
The Gamecocks got as close as a point on two Ty Johnson free throws with 1:21 remaining but could never regain the lead. Fred Miller converted a three-point play with 53 seconds remaining to make it a two possession game.
The Spartans scored seven straight points and sealed it when Miller slammed home a breakaway dunk in the final seconds. South Carolina missed three straight 3-point attempts in a minute span.
Three other Spartans also finished in double figures. Craig scored 13 points and Greene and Miller added 10 each.
Glenn – who tied his career high with the 21 points and added 14 rebounds – controlled the paint to get the three main South Carolina post players in foul trouble early with starter Demetrius Henry fouling out in just 16 minutes of action.
“I tried to post and give them moves,” Glenn said. “They have length and are tall and try to go for the shot block so I tried to use that to my advantage. We’re going to celebrate this now but we have to get back to business since we play on Saturday.”
The Gamecocks led by as many as 17 points in the first half but the Spartans erased most of that lead before the break. The South Carolina reserves speared-headed a 25-10 run to give South Carolina a 33-16 lead with 4:51 remaining in the half. Reserves Duane Notice, Brenton Williams and Laimonas Chatkevicius combined for 17 points during that run.
The Spartans closed the half on a 17-4 run to make it 37-33 at the break. Craig, Glenn and Karim Mawuenyega each contributed four points during that stretch.
“When we cut into the lead at halftime, I thought we had a chance,” Payne said. “That last six minutes of the half was a big part of the game.”
Sindarius Thornwell, a Lancaster native, led South Carolina with 19 points and Johnson chipped in with 11. The Gamecocks shot just 10 of 36 from the field in the second half that included a 3-for-15 performance from the 3-point line.
“We just missed shots,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said. “We had wide-open 3s and we just didn’t make them.”
The Spartans will play at Charlotte on Saturday.
South Carolina, who is on a three-game losing streak, will participate in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic beginning Sunday.
Marin announced before the game that sophomore forward Michael Carrera would be suspended for the contest after being involved in a post-game altercation following Tuesday’s loss to Manhattan. Carrera is averaging 7.5 points and 5.7 rebounds, second-best on the team.