Gritty effort, home crowd power Longwood past USC Upstate

Published 10:02 am Sunday, January 15, 2023

Willett Hall has been the toughest place to play in the Big South over the past two seasons. Longwood men’s basketball proved it on Saturday night.

The Lancers (13-6, 5-1 Big South) gutted out a 72-65 win over a feisty USC Upstate side to win their 11th straight conference home game.

Less than 48 hours after a grueling game at UNC Asheville, DeShaun WadeIsaiah Wilkins and Jesper Granlund, along with plenty of support from 1,756 Lancer fans, led the way.

It took some grit. The Lancers only shot .400 from the floor, but the team snared 13 offensive rebounds. Those extra chances turned into 15 points, and Longwood shot a season-high 40 free throws.

“I was really proud of the guys for battling,” said Longwood Head Coach Griff Aldrich. “The Thursday-Saturday turnaround…It’s a joy to play on national television, but we also got the joy of having to get back from Asheville and immediately turn around and prepare. That’s a significant advantage that Upstate enjoyed of having an extra day, and they played at home on Wednesday. So there was really only travel up here. I thought our guys showed a lot of toughness.”

Longwood, by the numbers

Wade posted a game-high 19 points and went 9-10 at the free throw line, and he keyed the decisive 15-3 run that effectively won the game after halftime for Longwood.

Granlund added a career best 16 points with a multitude of big shots. Wilkins finished with a double-double for a second straight game with 12 points and 12 rebounds along with the usual clutch buckets Lancer nation has come to expect.

“DeShaun played well. He was good defensively,” Aldrich added. “Jesper has been solid throughout. No turnovers today. I know he wasn’t thrilled with how he played at Asheville. I’m really happy for him that he had a nice bounce back game. He works so hard on his shot. He’s 3-7 from the free throw line, but he hit two really big ones for us that were really important. Jesper is a tireless worker, and it is fun when you see somebody who works so hard get to enjoy the fruit of their work.

“Isaiah’s done a really good job,” Aldrich said. “He had 15 rebounds against Asheville, and he had 12 tonight. He’s really helping us in so many different ways right now that is critical to our success. He has the freedom to bring the ball up. He’s got a really good burst. There’s a lot of value for him when he gets a rebound and takes off. That puts a lot pressure on the opposing team.”

Lancers maintain pace throughout game

USC Upstate (8-9, 3-3 Big South) had three players score in double figures, with Khydarius Smith posting a career best 16 points. Jordan Gainey added 15 points, but Wade and company forced Upstate’s leading scorer coming in to go 4-15 from the floor. Mysta Goodloe chipped in 14 points.

Longwood took an early lead in the first half, but USC Upstate never let the Lancers get any major separation in the opening 20 minutes. After the Lancers opened a six-point lead, Upstate rallied back. Goodloe evened the score at 18 apiece with 5:29 to play in the half.

Wade broke the tie and gave Longwood the lead for good off a Wilkins pass with 4:34 to play in the half. His three jumpstarted a 10-2 Longwood run that Granlund capped with a driving layup for a 28-20 lead. Granlund finished with 10 points in the opening half for the Lancers as they led 28-24 at the break.

After halftime, Wade kickstarted a 15-3 run that spanned 6:40 with a three. He had seven of the team’s 15 during the stretch, and the Longwood lead grew to 43-29 with 12:36 to play.

Upstate managed to whittle away the lead over the next 10 minutes, and Gainey hit a two foul shots to cut the Lancer lead to 61-56 with 2:20 left.

Wilkins came down the floor and drained a huge wing three off a feed from Wade, and the Lancers went 8-10 from the foul line in the final two minutes to seal the game.

Coming up next

Longwood stays at home to host Gardner-Webb on Wednesday, Jan. 18. Tip is set for 7 p.m., and it will be the Salute to Heroes night, sponsored by Haley Auto Mall. First responders, including local police, firefighters and EMS will receive free admission to the game. The contest will air on ESPN+ as well as on the radio on WVHL 92.9 Kickin’ Country.