AIKEN, S.C. – The No. 17 University of South Carolina Aiken men's basketball team overcame an 18-point deficit with a 22-4 run and played outstanding defense in the second half en route to a 61-60 win over visiting Lander Wednesday evening.
The Pacers are now 19-3 overall and 11-1 against conference foes.
DeVontae Wright led the way with a team-high 14 points on seven-of-eight shooting from the floor. He also dished out a game-high five assists while playing all 40 minutes.
However, the story of the night was Santoine Butler's stellar play. After the first half, he had just one rebound but ended the contest with 12 points and a game-high 10 rebounds while swatting a game-best three shots.
The Pacers trailed by 18 at the break after the Bearcats canned 52.9 percent of their shots in the first period. However, head coach Vince Alexander's team rattled home 61.5 percent of its shots in the final period.
USC Aiken, down 40-22 at halftime, embarked on a 22-4 spurt at the start of the second half, tying the contest at 44. During the run, Derrick Scott drained a free throw before Seilern's three-ball made it 40-26. Seilern followed it up with a jumper at the 17:22 mark.
Butler took a pass from Zimmerman and slammed home a dunk to make it a 10-point contest. He added a free throw a minute later. Then, Larsen hit a lay-up and Seilern drained a three-pointer, making it a 40-36 contest.
After a basket by Lander, Butler nailed a short jumper. However, Lander went ahead 44-38 before Zimmerman made back-to-back there-pointers, tying the game at 44.
USC Aiken was unable to take the lead though as the Bearcats clawed ahead 56-48 with 5:55 to play.
From that point forward, the Pacers' defense stepped up. Wright buried a jumper to make it 56-50 and Larsen followed it up with a dunk. At the 4:08 mark, Larsen's dunk pulled the team within two.
Lander went ahead 58-54 but Butler's three-pointer sliced the deficit to just one. His dunk gave the home team a 59-58 advantage with 2:31 to go. Butler made another lay-up with 1:06 to go, but the visitors pulled within one at 61-60.
Wright broke the press and threw a lob to Butler, who was fouled. However, he missed the front end of the one-and-one and the Bearcats got the ball back. Stellar defense by USC Aiken forced an off-balanced shot that Butler corralled the rebound to clinch the victory.
The Pacers host Armstrong Saturday night at 7:30 p.m., on Homecoming.