USA TODAY Sports
Spartan junior Jodd Maxey upstaged his better known teammate Torrey Craig to turn in a career night against Lipscomb. The breakout game could give USC Upstate the edge in a very tight Atlantic Sun conference.
When we took over Mid-Major Madness during the summer, the goal was to provide some kind of analysis each day on a game that had occurred the night before. Given the vagaries of life as we know it, that goal hasn't always been met.
But from time to time, we have to call out a random performance from the night before, in this case a game that we actually watched, but on a whole wasn't interesting enough to write anything coherent about.
USC Upstate toyed with Lipscomb on Thursday night, to the tune of a 12-point win. The Spartans used their dominance inside, including 13 blocks, to essentially keep the Bisons at a distance all night.
That Lipscomb couldn't find a handle on its long-range shots didn't help their cause. They finished shooting 26 percent from long range, helped by a run of threes in the final minutes as they tried to get close enough to USC Upstate to make a game of it.
All told, that earned him a Game Score of 82.6, almost doubling what Craig put up (Side note: this is still not the highest Game Score we have seen. Not surprisingly, that belongs to Mike Muscala who almost single-handedly beat Marist with a Game Score of 94.0). His dominant performance at both ends of the floor -- his rebounds were split and that block number might not be Anthony Davis- or Nerlens Noel-like, but still impressive considering he is only 6-8, not 6-10 -- made him the player to watch as Craig's standard performance faded into the background.
The win kept the Spartans in the hunt for the Atlantic Sun regular season title, a race that is tied up with three teams boasting 7-3 marks, while Mercer -- off last night -- is right there at 6-3. The A-Sun race is really going to come down to matchups as none of the four teams competing for the crown -- Florida Gulf Coast and Jacksonville are the others -- have shown that they are ready to walk away with it.
Thursday night's win showed why Florida Gulf Coast needed overtime and a little luck to knock off USC Upstate earlier in January. The Spartans have one of the taller teams in the country and exploit that talent well. Between Maxey, Craig and Babatunde Olumuylwa, they have three players who have better than a 2 percent block percentage (and Maxey and Olumuylwa are both over 6 percent). That is going to cause a lot of problems for teams that are pushing the ball inside to score, such as the Eagles, or Lipscomb. Add in the ability to outrebound their opponents and any opponent is going to have to shoot very well in order to trip up the Spartans.
The night that Florida Gulf Coast got the better of USC Upstate in overtime, the blocks weren't there, even if the rebounds were. That looked to be the deciding factor as the Eagles still managed to shoot 52.7 percent from 2-point range. As we mentioned when we covered Florida Gulf Coast earlier, this is a big change from the 2011-12 version of the team that lived from outside.
As the conference tournament draws closer, getting the favorable seeding for any of these teams at the top will be important. Avoiding the bad matchups early on could be the difference between getting eliminated in the quarterfinals and getting to the NCAA Tournament.
And if Jodd Maxey continues to play like this, USC Upstate could become a bad matchup for almost anyone.