It wasn’t easy, but the Billikens pulled out a victory against South Carolina Upstate to open their season on Friday night at Chaifetz Arena. The Billikens pulled out a 76-59 victory, highlighted by their characteristic solid defense.
“It was a hard fought game, we knew we had to earn it, and we did,” interim head coach Jim Crews said after his first game at the helm of the Billikens program.
Cory Remekun sat out the game with a minor ankle sprain, but sophomore Grandy Glaze more than picked up the slack after a solid week in practice, starting and giving 19 solid minutes of play.
“I was definitely nervous, but once the ball tipped, I just got into the flow of things,” Glaze said.
Senior Cody Ellis came in to the game at the 16:29 mark and provided a much needed spark off the bench for the Billikens, giving 15 points in 28 minutes.
The star of the game though, was Dwayne Evans, contributing 21 points. He capped off a 9-0 run for the Billikens with a 14-foot jumper at 8:57 in the first half, giving the Billikens their first big lead at 19-12. After a free throw by USC- Upstate, Jorair Jett added to the Billikens’ lead with a drive down the middle and a steal on the next defensive position, leading to two more points.
“Dwayne was very good… our guys did a good job situations finding situations for him,” Crews said.
Soon after, Glaze chipped in his four points on back-to-back possessions with two hard-fought layups.
The Billikens led 36-28 after the first half, as the Spartans’ full court press provided a few problems for the Billikens and their deep backcourt.
The Billikens struggled to open the second half, as USC-Upstate closed the lead to 44-42 after a Torrey Craig three pointer from the corner.
“They can knock down shots all over the court, their big guys are scary down low,” Evans said.
This was as close as the Spartans would get though, as McCall drove down the baseline for a strong layup on the next possession. Ellis also contributed four big points down low in this sequence, as he definitively answered questions about his ability to be a force in the paint.
After a McCall drive and kick out to Carter for his only three points of the game, the Billikens stretched their lead to 54-44, giving the Billikens a comfortable lead for the rest of the game.
Jake Barnett sunk a three pointer with five seconds left, capping the Billikens’ 76-59 victory.