Saturday March 8, 2008
AIKEN, S.C.— After watching 11 games over the previous 48 hours, top-seeded USC Aiken (26-2) finally took the floor Friday night at the 2008 Peach Belt Conference Tournament, and the fifth-ranked Pacers did not disappoint with a 96-62 victory over ninth-seeded Lander (10-19) in the day’s last quarterfinal. With the victory USCA moves to the semifinals Saturday to face fourth-seeded North Georgia, an 88-86 victor over Armstrong Atlantic State.
The Pacers’ pair of All-Conference performers did not disappoint their home fans, as Jeremy Fears poured in a game-high 33 points and Chris Commons added 24 points and 10 rebounds in the victory against the overmatched Bearcats.
Using a pair of steals and fastbreak dunks from Fears, USC Aiken used a quick 9-3 spurt to take a 14-7 lead at the 13:01 mark of the opening half.
The visitors began to cut into the lead and tied the game at 23 on a jumper by Zach Evans with 6:00 remaining in the period.
The Pacer lead was 29-27 with 3:25 on the clock when Fears and Commons ignited a 13-3 run to end the half. Fears started the spurt with a three-point play, and Commons scored the last eight USCA points of the half to send the hots into the locker room leading 42-30.
Fears led all scorers with 16 points in the half while Commons and Cordaryl Ballard added 12 and 10 respectively.
Ballard knocked down a three and Brian Egwuatu scored inside as USCA pushed their lead to 17 early in the second half. Two threes by Evans started a 13-5 run by Lander to get the lead into single digits at 52-43 with 15:10 remaining.
USCA junior Kingsley Oguchi responded with a three on the Pacers next possession, commencing a 15-4 run for the hosts that pushed the lead to 20 for the first time with 9:54 left. Commons scored seven points during the spurt, including the last four to make it 67-47.
With most of the Pacer regulars on the bench and the lead 85-62 with 4:01 left, the USC Aiken bench finished the game with an 11-2 run for the final margin. Sophomores Rashad Flowers and Mark Brown both knocked down triples to end the hosts’ scoring. Brown was playing in just his second game of the season after sitting out most of the year with an injury.
Fears knocked down 10-of-14 shots from the field, including three from long range, and hit 10-for-11 from the charity stripe to tie his career high. The junior guard grabbed seven rebounds, dished out four assists, and collected five steals in the contest.