|Babatunde Olumyiwa scored a season high of 11 points as the Spartans advanced.|
By DANIEL SHIRLEY
With talented scorers like Torrey Craig and Ty Greene leading the way for the USC Upstate Spartans, it’s sometimes hard for Babatunde Olumuyiwa to get a ton of looks at the basket.
The junior certainly made the most of his opportunities against Jacksonville on Thursday in the first round of the 2013 General Shale A-Sun Basketball Championships.
Olumuyiwa picked the perfect night to record his season high of 11 points, contributing his part of a balanced Spartans scoring attack in the team’s 76-62 win over the Dolphins.
“I did, I did,” Olumuyiwa said. “It wasn’t anything that hasn’t been going on all year. Just tonight we had more to play for. Although throughout the year we had things to play for, tonight it was win or go home.”
The Spartans (16-16) move on to the semifinals, where they face tournament host and top-seeded Mercer at 5:30 p.m. on Friday at the Bears’ Hawkins Arena.
Olumuyiwa usually fills up the stat sheet with blocks and rebounds and adds a little bit of scoring. But Thursday, he was strong offensively while also continuing to handle his other duties. Olumuyiwa made 5-of-7 shots from the floor, and sank 1-of-2 from the foul line.
Olumuyiwa also had five rebounds and three blocked shots to help the Spartans control the game from the start; USC Upstate led by as many as 25 points.
Four other Spartans scored in double figures, as Craig had his usual strong night with 17 points, Greene added 14, Ricardo Glenn had 12 and Adrian Rodgers also had 11.
Olumuyiwa’s career high is 16 points, which he achieved in the 2010-11 season. He also scored 14 in a game last year. But entering Thursday’s game, he had not reached double figures in scoring in any game this season. He averaged 6.5 points and 4.7 rebounds per game entering the championship, while also blocking 71 shots.
“With Torrey and Ty scoring the way they are, everyone has a particular role on the team,” Olumuyiwa said. “Theirs happens to be scoring, while other people happen to be rebounders or floor generals. Everybody is just playing their role.”
The win was the Spartans’ first ever victory at Hawkins Arena, against five losses to Mercer.
“Everybody kind of knew; it was in the back of our minds,” Olumuyiwa said. “But it wasn’t really anything any of us were thinking about.”
The Spartans, however, were aware they were looking for their first A-Sun Championship win after losing to Florida Gulf Coast last year in the first round.
“That was nice,” Olumuyiwa said. “The first one is always the hardest.”
The Spartans quickly have to turn their attention to the Bears, whom they lost to twice during the regular season. Mercer is undefeated at home this season.
“We just have to play the way that we know that we can play,” Olumuyiwa said. “We have to play how we played tonight and stay solid on defense. That’s where our bread and butter is, on defense.
“Throughout the regular season, it didn’t go exactly the way that we wanted it to go. But that season is over. Now it’s a new one, and we can start from scratch.”