AUGUSTA, Ga. – The No. 8 University of South Carolina Aiken men's basketball team overcame a 20-point first half deficit to record an 82-73 victory at GRU Augusta Wednesday evening, clinching the Peach Belt Conference regular-season title outright.
The Pacers are currently 25-3 overall and 17-1 in league play.
Leading the way for head coach Vince Alexander's team was DeVontae Wright, who poured in a career-high 26 points to go along with four rebounds and a game-high three assists. Ronald Zimmerman connected on four three-point buckets en route to 19 points while Jesse Seilern accounted for 14 points and six rebounds. Rick Alderman came off the bench to account for 11.
Defensively, Paul Larsen tallied three steals and snagged a game-high nine boards. Alvin Brown swatted four shots in addition to collecting six boards.
The teams went back-and-forth in the early going with USC Aiken taking an 11-10 lead on a dunk by Santoine Butler. The Pacers pushed the margin to four at 16-12 with 11:14 to go when Wright buried two charity tosses. However, those points marked the last time USC Aiken would score until the 3:14 mark of the first half. During the spurt, the Jaguars went on a 19-0 run, taking a 31-16 lead.
USC Aiken tried to battle back in the closing minutes of the opening period after trailing 39-19. A three-point shot by Seilern in the corner pulled the visitors within 17 at 39-22. GRU Augusta held a 41-25 lead at the break.
The Jaguars continued to lead by 18 at the 17:26 mark, but Alderman hit a lay-up and Larsen slammed home a thunderous dunk within a 30-second span. Brown hit two free throws at the 16:20 mark and then Zimmerman drained a three-point shot. During his shot, Zimmerman was fouled 25-feet out. He went on to hit a free throw, slicing the deficit to eight with 15:42 to play.
The home team regained a 12-point margin at 52-40, but Alexander's team embarked on a 15-0 run to take a 55-52 lead.
During the run, Seilern and Alderman each hit a pair of charity tosses. Zimmerman hit a floater along the baseline before Wright hit an 18-foot jumper. Zimmerman's three off a pass from Alderman gave the visitors a 52-51 margin.
After a bucket by the Jaguars, Wright answered with four straight points.
GRU Augusta tied the contest at 62 and 64, but fouls and technicals on the Jaguars allowed USC Aiken to take advantage at the foul line. Alexander's team led by seven points with 1:32 to play, but the Jaguars pulled within three. A foul by the home team put Wright on the line and he buried two. The Pacers canned their last six free throws in the final 37 seconds to secure the win.
In the second half, the Pacers hit 30-of-37 free throws en route to the nine-point win.
For the game, USC Aiken hit 45.5 percent of its shots from the floor and buried 36-of-49 from the foul line (73.5 percent). Alexander's team out-rebounded the visitors 41-29.
The Pacers return to action Saturday on Senior Day. The Pacers host UNC Pembroke at 7:30 p.m. Prior to the game, USC Aiken will honor the 10 seniors on the team.