AIKEN, S.C. - A balanced University of South Carolina Aiken men's basketball team won its second straight game behind five players in double figures in an 86-71 victory over Peach Belt Conference rival UNC Pembroke at the Convocation Center on Wednesday evening.
The victory improved the Pacers to 15-8 on the 2009-10 season. USC Aiken is now 10-6 in the extremely tough PBC. The loss dropped the Braves of UNC Pembroke to 8-16 overall, which includes a 4-11 mark in the PBC.
In a game in which the lead changed hands just one time, the Pacers pretty much controlled things from the start. USC Aiken looked as if it was going to run away with things from the outset, going up by as many as 13 points in the first half at 26-13 with 9:03 remaining. The half would end though with the game tight with UNC Pembroke going on an 18-5 run to tie the game at 31-31 with 1:20 left in the first half of play.
USC Aiken would close the half on a 3-0 run to own a 34-31 lead at intermission. The 3-0 spurt was buoyed by a Sterling Council (Camden, S.C./Camden) three-point play with under a minute left in the first half.
Both teams shot well from the floor in the first half with USC Aiken shooting 45.5 percent (15-for-33) from the field in the first half. UNC Pembroke shot 42.9 percent (12-of-28) from the floor in the first half.
USC Aiken would begin the second half on a 24-13 run to own a 14-point lead at 58-44 with 11:34 remaining in the contest.
The Braves would be able to cut the game into single digits just once more over the remaining 11 minutes before the Pacers pulled ahead by 17 points after a Mark Brown (Charlotte, N.C./Hickory Grove Christian) free throw with 48 seconds left in the game. UNC Pembroke's Taylor Hukill scored a driving lay-up just before the final buzzer to set the final score at 86-71 in USC Aiken's favor.
The final tally is indicative of USC Aiken's clutch performance down the stretch. The Pacers were 9-for-16 from the free throw line through the first 36:18 of the contest, but the Pacers closed out the hard-fought game by going 11-for-12 (92 percent) from the charity stripe in the final 3:42 of the game.
USC Aiken concluded the contest shooting 47.6 percent (30-for-63) from the field. USC Aiken was red-hot from the field as a team in the second half, scoring at a 50 percent (15-for-30) clip.
The Braves in turn shot a collective 42.6 percent (26-of-61) as a team in the game.
USC Aiken had nine players score a bucket in the contest with the five netting double figures. Brown led the way with 16 points. Transfer Byron Faison (Sumter, S.C./Winthrop) and Sterling Council (Camden, S.C./Camden) were not far behind with 14 points, while Casey McMasters (Harrisburg, Pa./Central Dauphin) and Re'mon Nelson (Canal Winchester, Ohio/Canal Winchester) both poured in 13.
Seth Leonard (York, Pa./William Penn) did not score in double figures, but he led the Pacers with eight boards.
UNC Pembroke was guided in the loss by Brandon Thomas, who finished the contest with a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds. He was one of three Braves in double figures in the game.
USC Aiken's week concludes on Saturday, Feb. 20 with a home men's and women's basketball doubleheader against Armstrong Atlantic State.
The Armstrong Atlantic State twinbill is sure to be a fun-filled night as it is Homecoming for USC Aiken. The Pacer athletic department will also be honoring the recently enshrined Hall of Fame members during the doubleheader.
The doubleheader is set to begin at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 20 with the USC Aiken women taking on the Armstrong Atlantic State women at 5:30 p.m. The Pacer men and the AASU men will then take to the court against one another immediately following the women's game at approximately 7:30 p.m.
It will also be Senior Night at the Convocation Center with the USC Aiken men's and women's basketball teams honoring their seniors prior to the start of the men's basketball game.
For those unable to make it to the games as always the USC Aiken Sports Information Department has you covered. Live stats and a free live webcast will be available for Pacer fans who are unable to attend the games. The live stats and live webcast can be accessed by clicking on the live stats link and video link at www.pacersports.com.