USC Upstate will try to build on what was a strong first half Saturday against Florida Gulf Coast and build some momentum headed toward the conference tournament.

USC UPSTATE at NORTH FLORIDA

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: UNF Arena; Jacksonville, Fla.

Records: USC Upstate (7-21 overall, 2-9 Atlantic Sun); North Florida (11-17, 5-6)

TV/Internet/video (ESPN3): http://www.espn.com/watch/_/id/3273512/south-carolina-upstate-vs-north-florida

Live stats: http://www.sidearmstats.com/unf/mbball/

Leading scorers: USC Upstate – Jr. G Deion Holmes (14.9 points); Jr. F Malik Moore (14.1 points, 6.2 rebounds); Jr. G Mike Cunningham (13.3 points); Sr. F Ramel Thompkins (10.3 points, 5.8 rebounds). North Florida – So. G Ivan Gandia-Rosa (13.8 points, 6.0 assists); So. G J.T. Escobar (12.-0 points); So. G Garrett Sams (11.8 points); Fr. F Trip Day (11.6 points); So. F Noah Horchler (11.4 points, 9.7 rebounds, So. F Wajid Aminu (9.7 points, 6.9 rebounds).

Notes: USC Upstate is running out of chances to escape last place and avoid a first-round Atlantic Sun Conference tournament game at Florida Gulf Coast (20-8, 11-0). The Spartans are a game behind Stetson with three left to play. Upstate’s win against third-place Jacksonville could provide a tie-breaker. The Spartans finish with a road game at Jacksonville and a home game against New Jersey Institute of Technology. Stetson’s last three are against second-place Lipscomb (one game ahead of Jacksonville), Kennesaw State and at home against FCGU, which has already wrapped up the regular-season league title and home court throughout its participation in the tournament. …USC Upstate had a 15-point halftime lead Saturday at home against FGCU but lost, 88-71. …Behind first-place FGCU is a log jam with Jacksonville, NJIT, North Florida and Kennesaw State all separated by only one game. Among those four, only two will start the tournament on their own courts Feb. 26. …North Florida beat USC Upstate in the 2015 championship and was runner-up last season to Florida Gulf Coast, which won back-to-back titles and third in five years (Mercer, now in the Southern Conference, was the other). …The Spartans lost at home Jan. 20 to North Florida, 100-80. In that game, Horchler (6-foot-8, 190 pounds) scored a career-high 31 points and had 12 rebounds. He has been in double-figure rebounds nine times in the past 11 games, finishing the others with nine and eight. Since the second week of January, in fact, Horchler has averaged 15.9 points and 8.5 rebounds. …North Florida has a balanced offense with five players averaging in double-digit scoring (none among the top 10) and a sixth player at 9.7 points with 6.9 rebounds. And they are all underclassmen. …North Florida has lost three of its past four games. …Holmes, the former Chesnee High standout (all-time leading scorer) has averaged 22.0 points in USC Upstate’s last eight games. He had a career-high 39 against Lipscomb and 34 two nights later against Stetson.

Next: USC Upstate stays in town after the game at North Florida to play Jacksonville at 6 p.m. Saturday. The Spartans' regular-season finale is Feb. 22 at home against NJIT.