Sunday, January 4, 2009.
There are a lot of great rivalries in sports, ranging from Ohio State-Michigan in college football to the Red Sox-Yankees in baseball. And right here in the CSRA, there's another great rivalry: Augusta State vs. USC-Aiken.
"Honestly, I compare it to the Duke-North Carolina rivalry," says USC-Aiken forward Chris Commons. "I mean, it's two good teams. Same distance, you know, not that far apart. We want to come back victorious because we don't want our fans to boo us and we want their fans to boo them so it's going to be a great game."
It's the game that die-hard CSRA basketball fans have circled on their calendars months ahead of time. The Augusta State-USC-Aiken showdown. It happens two times each year. Tomorrow is game number one.
And as if this game needed more excitement, The Pacers come into the game ranked number two while the Jags are number seven, meaning this will be the first matchup of two top-ten nationally ranked teams in the Peach Belt Conference history. And with it being an early conference game as well, both teams understand just how big of a game this is.
"It's a very good thing for the community," says ASU guard Ben Madgen. "Two top ten teams in the nation going at it. And they're always great games."
"It's going to be a great game. I know they're in Augusta, 20 minutes away. I know they're ready," says Commons. "We're excited. I mean it's just going to be a great matchup. I'm excited for the game. I kind of want to see how well we do against them as much as they want to know how well they do against us."
ASU leads the all-time series 33-16 but the two teams split the season series last year. The Pacers winning in Aiken and the Jaguars winning handily in Augusta.
Both teams were in action Saturday night. The Pacers won against North Georgia while the Jags fell to Clayton State. So not a lot of time to prepare for Monday's battle, but depending on who you talk to, that's a good or bad thing.
"It's good after a loss to bounce back quickly," says Madgen. "You don't want to wait too long to play again so it's good that it's actually [Monday]."
"I don't like the turnaround but at the same time, it is what it is," says USC-Aiken head coach Vince Alexander. "It's just like a tournament. So hey, you get ready for it just like a tournament and hopefully our guys will respond to that and they'll be ready to go."
The Pacers will be shorthanded for the game too. They will be without Josh Dollard, who has been suspended indefinitely. The reason? He and Coach Alexander not exactly seeing eye to eye. Dollard will be missed. He averages 16 points per game and 8 rebounds. No word on when he will return.