Powered by a 25-7 fourth quarter, No.1-ranked Spartanburg downed Northwestern 68-47 Friday.
The frantic pace of the first half prevented either team from settling into a flow on the offensive end. The Trojans jumped to an early 8-5 lead with three minutes gone in the first quarter and fought off the top-ranked Vikings in the second quarter to find themselves on top 27-26 at the half.
Spartanburg, led by Zycorrian Robinson with a game-high 22 points, opened the second quarter on a 10-0 run to take an eight-point lead with 5:12 to play before intermission. The lead disappeared behind a strong second-quarter performance by the Trojans.
Powered by an 11-4 run to end the quarter, Northwestern went into halftime with a slim one-point advantage.
Taylor Shugart, the Trojans' 6-foot-7 workhorse, picked up his second foul midway through the first quarter and the inside void was apparent as Omar Sanders had his way in the paint. Sanders finished with 18 points.
Spartanburg outscored the Trojans 25-5 from the free throw line. The Trojans went to the line nine times compared to 29 trips for the Vikings.
Shugart, who finished with 14, provided a much-needed spark to begin the third quarter. He scored the Trojans' first six points of the second half and helped his team grab its largest lead of the game, 33-30, with 5:29 to play in the third. He picked up his third foul less than a minute later and coach Mike Gossett pulled him.
With Shugart out, Spartanburg out-scored the Trojans 6-2 over the final 2:02 of the quarter and grabbed the lead at 41-40 with 38 seconds on the clock. The Vikings hadn't led since holding a 26-19 edge with 1:59 remaining in the second quarter.
"We need him to be in the ball game, obviously," Gossett said. "He's a threat inside and when our shooters on the outside get their shot working, they have to double on him. He's a double weapon. Not only can he score but he draws attention."
The Vikings closed the game with a commanding 25-7 outburst in the fourth quarter behind the strong play of Sanders, who scored 11 points in the run.