ATLANTA — Ty Greene is not one of the five Georgians on USC-Upstate's roster, but the senior guard looked like the most excited Spartan Saturday after scoring 13 of his game-high 16 points in the second half as USC-Upstate stretched its winning streak against ACC schools to two with a 59-54 win at Georgia Tech.
The Spartans (8-2), from Spartanburg, S.C., lost their first seven all-time games to ACC teams before beating Virginia Tech 64-63 last season, and the Yellow Jackets (6-2) in McCamish Pavilion.
Greene stole the ball from Georgia Tech's Marcus Georges-Hunt, and went the other way for a layup and a free throw after Georges-Hunt fouled him for a 52-48 lead with 3:39 left.
The senior guard from Knoxville didn't wait until the game was over to celebrate. He went to pumping his fists like pistons on his way back down the court.
"For us, this is the kind of thing that is really celebratory," said Upstate coach Eddie Payne. "It's hard to do what these kids did, but I've got a really good group of youngsters, probably as good a group as I've ever had."
Upstate led for just 9:39 to Georgia Tech's 25:45, but never trailed nor was tied after West Hall graduate Shunquez Stephens made two free throws for a 49-48 lead with 4:07 left in the game.
The Yellow Jackets were pretty good on defense; Upstate shot just 30.2 percent (16 of 53).
But Georgia Tech struggled to take advantage of its size inside, where a 42-30 rebounding edge wasn't enough. The Yellow Jackets too often settled for long jumpers against the Upstate zone, making just 3 of 21 3-point shots, and going just 11 for 20 from the free throw line.
Upstate entered the game ranked No. 7 in the nation averaging 10.9 steals, and had 10 Saturday, scoring 23 points off 17 Georgia Tech turnovers. All three of Greene's steals came in the second half.
Upstate swarmed Georgia Tech big men DeMarco Cox, who shot just 4 of 9 for eight points, and Charles Mitchell, who had five turnovers with six points and seven rebounds.
"It takes a maturity and a certain amount of toughness and grit to be able to compete and play against a very good team for 40 minutes," said Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory. "We're just not there yet."
The Yellow Jackets were led by reserve guard Chris Bolden, who had season highs of 10 points, four rebounds and four assists. Georges-Hunt had eight points.
Tech used a 14-0 run to take a 17-4 halftime lead, but then reserve forward Josh Cuthbertson made four consecutive 3-pointers — a career high — and Upstate moved into a 28-all tie by halftime. Cuthbertson finished with 12 points.
"He can make shots, but hadn't made them like that this year," Payne said. "That allowed us to stay in it, and we were able to scratch back and make it even at halftime."
USC-Upstate: The Spartans' bench was outscored for the first time all season as Georgia Tech's reserves had a 26-21 edge.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets surrendered a season-high 10 made 3-pointers. They allowed Marquette to go 9 for 22 in their only other loss, a 72-70 setback on Nov. 27 in the Orlando Classic.
PAYNE A PAIN FOR TECH
Beating Tech is no big deal for Upstate coach Eddie Payne. He was 5-0 against the Yellow Jackets as a Clemson assistant from 1975-78 and 1979-81 and 0-1 against Georgia Tech as East Carolina's coach from 1991-95.
LONG BALL BLUES
Tech's 3-for-21 shooting from beyond the arc was good for just 14.3 percent. The Yellow Jackets have struggled from afar all season, hitting just 29.5 percent of their treys over the first seven games. "We knew they were a little challenged from the perimeter so we tried to take away the inside," Payne said, "and I thought we did an excellent job of that."