AP NEWS

Augusta withstands USCA hot start to beat Pacers

January 25, 2018 GMT

AUGUSTA 95, USC AIKEN 79

The shots that were falling with regularity in the first half just wouldn’t fall in the second, and the USC Aiken men’s basketball left the court at the Convocation Center with another home loss, and a seventh straight loss in the series with rival Augusta University after a 95-79 defeat.

The Pacers started hot early, jumping out to a 15-point lead within the first 10 minutes, but a slight adjustment by the Jaguars and a bit of foul trouble shifted the course of the game.

Pacer big man Rob Hill picked up two fouls early in the game, but with him being such a vital part of the Pacer attack on both ends of the floor, the team switched to a zone defense to try to buy more minutes with him on the floor. Augusta eventually shot them out of it, making three straight 3-pointers and cutting the lead to six. USCA switched out of the zone fairly quickly, but in many ways, the damage was already done.

“At that point they created a level of momentum, and we didn’t necessarily respond from that point forward,” USCA head coach Mark Vanderslice said.

Augusta (10-8, 7-5 Peach Belt Conference) weathered the early offensive storm by USCA (10-6, 7-5) and tied the game at 41 just before halftime.

While the Jaguars responded well to the Pacers’ switch to a zone defense, the same couldn’t be said for the Pacers on the offensive end. Despite USCA shooting 50 percent from the field in the first half and making eight 3-pointers, Augusta also switched to a zone. That’s when things went south for the Pacers offensively.

Augusta opened the second half on a 11-1 run to take a 52-41 lead. Vanderslice felt his team went into ‘home run mode’ after that. USCA shot 4-for-15 from beyond the 3-point line in the second half.

“It’s sad to say, but it’s brutally honest, we didn’t have a level of mental toughness today to respond to the ebbs and flows of tonight’s game,” Vanderslice said. “We were up and we were excited, and then when we got punched in the mouth we didn’t respond when we needed to.”

Doniel Dean led the Pacers with 27 points, and Markus Terry scored 18. The performances by the two guards weren’t enough to overcome 26 points from Augusta’s Tamyrik Fields and 15 points apiece from Aaron Byrd and Vlad Cobzaru.

The loss dropped the Pacers into a tie with the Jaguars for third place in the league standings. They remain three games out of first place with UNC Pembroke losing to Francis Marion. USCA will travel to Young Harris on Saturday.

“To be a good basketball team, which I think we are, we’re going to have to move past the downs and fight through them,” Vanderslice said. “Put ourselves in a position to respond and be resilient to the peaks and the valleys in the basketball game.”