SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Junior M.J. Rhett put forth one of his best efforts on both sides of the ball Saturday finishing with his second double-double of the year in a 73-64 loss to USC Upstate.
Back in his home state Rhett posted a team high in rebounds (11) for the Tigers combined with 11 points. It was the junior’s first double-double since the team’s opening game against Hawai’I on Nov. 8.
Freshman Jamonte Graham notched career highs in points (9), rebounds (2), assists and steals (2) in the effort. Patrick Miller’s 20 points marked the junior’s 21st game in double-figures going all the way back to Jan. 24 against EKU.
After falling behind USC Upstate (5-3) 4-0 to start the contest, a Patrick Miller steal combined with a Kennedy Eubanks layup on the other end got the Tennessee State (0-8) offense on the board at 17:46. The Spartans continued on their run after the Tigers broke their drought taking a 9-4 lead into the first media timeout.
USC Upstate continued to lead throughout the first half. Gritty playsby junior Jay Harris kept the Tigers within seven at 20-13, with 7:34 remaining in the opening frame.
A knifing Miller layup drew a foul in the lane and he converted the and one opportunity to cut the once 12-point deficit down to nine, 27-18, at the 4:51 mark.
An Upstate run pushed the home team’s lead back to 11, at 29-18, with 4:06 left on the first half clock. Tennessee State ended the first half on a tear closing the lead to just three points as the teams headed to the locker rooms.
The 12-4 run was orchestrated by the play of Miller and freshman Jamonte Graham the duo combined for nine of the Tigers 12 points in the span, including a deep three from Graham with 21 seconds left on the 1st half clock. Senior Chaed Wellian also added a 3-pointer in the run.
In the first half TSU shot 40.7 percent from the field (11-27) and 18.7 percent from distance (2-11). Miller had a game high eight points in the first stanza, with a team high four rebounds and two assists.
Tennessee State started the second half with a 3:37 scoring drought, ended by an M.J. Rhett layup to close the Spartans lead to six, 38-32.
USC Upstate pushed its lead back to eight, 40-32, Tennessee State connected on four quick points bringing the lead back down to four, 40-36, capped by an M.J. Rhett free-throw.
The lead increased back to double-digits at 12:38 with a Criag Torrey jumper to make the score 48-38. TSU’s senior leader Miller answered back for Big Blue with four consecutive points bringing coach Travis Williams’ team within six, 48-42. Four straight free-throws by Tennessee State cut the Spartans lead down to four with 8:02 left in the game.
The home team answered back to extend the lead back to 10, 48-38, with the help of a 6-0 run.
Tennessee State closed as close as seven in the closing moments of the second half, with the latest at the 1:30 mark (65-58) but the Spartans charged back each time.
USC Upstate went on to close the game out 73-64 after the Tigers rally fell short.