Jags knock off Pacers for trip to second straight Elite Eight

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Tuesday March 17, 2009

AUGUSTA, Ga. -– The Augusta State Jaguars earned a return trip to Springfield, Mass., and the NCAA Division II Elite Eight as they used a suffocating defense to smother USC Aiken 85-57 Tuesday night in Christenberry Fieldhouse.

The fourth-ranked Jaguars, the top seed in the Southeast Regional, improved to 29-4 on the year with their 15th straight win while USC Aiken saw its season come to a close at 25-8.

The Jaguars held the Pacers to a season-low 57 points, forcing 17 USCA turnovers and limiting Aiken to 5-of-21 three-point shooting. The Jaguars shot 61 percent (28-of-46) from the field, had 11 steals and five blocks.

Augusta State sprinted out of the gate, jumping to a 15-4 lead as the Jags hit seven of their first 11 shots of the game, including six points from Garret Siler. The Pacers answered back with a 7-2 run to cut the lead to four with 9:45 to go in the first, five of those points from Kingsley Oguchi.

Leading by six with 5:44 to go, the Jags pushed the lead back into double figures following a Steve Smith 3-pointer and Greg Hire layup and led 36-27 at the break.

USC Aiken made its move to cut into the ASU lead to start the second half. After ASU extended the lead to 13 on a 3-pointer from Fred Brathwaite and layup by Ben Madgen, the Pacers answered with a 7-2 spurt that included a 3-pointer from Chris Commons.

But USCA would get no closer as Augusta State went on a 15-5 run over the next four minutes to increased the lead to 21 with 12:39 to play. USCA cut the lead to 17 following a Josh Dollard jumper, but Ben Madgen’s dunk with 9:21 to play put the lead back above 20 points where it would remain for the rest of the game.

Garret Siler was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after tying for the team lead with 25 points on 9-of-11 shooting. The senior center also had a team-high six rebounds and five blocks. Madgen also scored 25 for ASU, hitting six-of-seven from the field and all 11 of his free throw attempts. ASU shot 68 percent in the second half alone and hit 24-of-28 free throws in the contest.

Dollard led the Pacers with 16 points off the bench while Oguchi added 12. Seth Leonard added eight points and a team-best five rebounds while Chris Commons had eight points.

The win was the 80th in the last three years for Augusta State against only 18 losses, the most successful stretch in school history. The Jaguars return to the Elite Eight after winning their first region title last year and advancing to the national championship game. ASU will meet Christian Brothers, winners of the South Region, in the first game of the Elite Eight on Wednesday, March 25, at 12:00 p.m., from the Mass Mutual Center in Springfield.

At the conclusion of the contest, the Southeast Regional All-Tournament team was announced: ASU’s Siler and Madgen, USC Aiken’s Chris Commons and Josh Dollard, along with Catawba’s Rob Fields, were named to the squad.

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