Upstate Falls At Jacksonville

USC Upstate Athletics

Jacksonville, Fla. – Kori Babineaux scored a game-high 30 points to lead the Jacksonville Dolphins to an 81-78 victory over the USC Upstate men’s basketball team Thursday evening in A-Sun action from Historic Swisher Gym.

Upstate falls to 9-20 on the season and 3-9 in A-Sun play, while Jacksonville improves to 16-13 overall and 8-4 in the conference.

The Spartans had five players score in double-figures for the fourth time this season, and second in conference play, led by Michael Buchanan and Deion Holmes with 17 points apiece. Mike Cunningham added 16 points, Malik Moore 12 and Josh Cuthbertson 10. Buchanan pulled down a team-high eight rebounds for Upstate while Cunningham dished out five assists.

Babineaux and Marcel White combined for 52 points for the Dolphins as White contributed 22. Babineaux and Josh Adeyeye both had eight rebounds.

After Jacksonville opened the game with a three-point play by White, Upstate answered with back-to-back baskets from Buchanan and Cunningham. The Dolphins would take the lead back the following possession and held a 10-6 advantage with 17:05 left on a layup by Babineaux. Moore and Holmes combined for the next six Spartan points to take the lead back, 12-10, at the 15:16 mark.

Jacksonville used a 12-2 run over the next 3:51 to go in front 22-14 with 11:57 remaining after two free throws by White. Babineaux put the Dolphins in front 24-14 just over two minutes later. Upstate managed to trim its deficit down to six, 26-20, with 7:57 left before Jacksonville took its largest lead of the game, 35-23, at the 4:29 mark on a Babineaux jumper.

The Spartans cut the JU lead down to three with just over two minutes remaining courtesy of an 11-2 run capped by Cuthbertson’s three-pointer with 2:23 remaining to make the score 35-32. The Dolphins pushed their lead back to nine before Moore’s tip-in with three seconds left sent Upstate into halftime down 41-34.

Holmes began the second half by scoring the first four Spartan points to quickly cut the lead down to 41-38 less than two minutes into the period. Following a Babineaux free throw three minutes later, Cunningham collected consecutive field goals to get Upstate to within one at 48-47 with 15:27 to go. Cunningham hit on a three during the Spartans next possession to give them a 50-48 advantage.

Jacksonville took the lead back and led by as many as six over a span of nearly 10 minutes when a jumper by Babineaux with 7:30 left gave JU a 66-60 lead. Upstate fought back with a quick 9-1 run to take a 69-67 lead at the 4:42 mark following a free throw by Moore.

The score was tied three times over the next two minutes with the last coming when Moore connected on another three-pointer with 2:51 left to even the game 74-74. The Spartans would be held scoreless for the next 2:23 as the Dolphins made three free throws for a 77-74 advantage. Cunningham made it a 77-76 contest with 28 seconds remaining, but Babineaux and White teamed up for three free throws to give Jacksonville the 81-76 victory.

Upstate finished the game shooting 44.3% (27-of-61) from the field while the Dolphins were 40.9% (27-of-66) as a team. The Spartans outscored JU 30-28 in the paint, 19-16 in points off turnovers and 16-7 in points from the bench.

Upstate remains in Jacksonville Saturday evening as it faces North Florida at 7 p.m. inside UNF Arena.

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