USC Aiken men win PBC tournament opener

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Friday March 8, 2013

COLUMBUS, Ga. – The Peach Belt Conference regular-season champion and East Division No. 1 University of South Carolina Aiken men’s basketball team obtained an 85-71 Peach Belt Conference Tournament quarterfinal victory over West No. 4 Clayton State on Friday afternoon at the Lumpkin Center.

The victory allows USC Aiken (20-7) to advance to the Peach Belt Conference Tournament semifinals where they will face the winner of the West No. 2 North Georgia-East No. 3 Armstrong Atlantic State at 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 9.

USC Aiken has now advanced to the semifinal round or further in the Peach Belt Conference Tournament in five of the last six years.

The victory over Clayton State (13-14) was also USC Aiken’s 20th victory of the 2012-13 season. The Pacers have now claimed 20 or more wins in a season in five of the last six years.

In a game that featured only two lead changes and two ties, USC Aiken went ahead by as many as 13 in the first half before the two teams entered intermission with the Pacers holding a 42-36 advantage.

The opening minutes of the second half would see the Lakers pull to within three. USC Aiken owned just a 42-38 advantage with 16:36 remaining in the game.

The Lakers had a chance to pull within two or even one on its next offensive possession after a Pacer missed shot. The Lakers would have their advances thwarted though when Kinley Branch (Stone Mountain, Ga./Arkansas State) made an incredibly athletic steal and then shortly thereafter Re’mon Nelson (Columbus, Ohio/Canal Winchester HS) hit a 3-pointer to give the Pacers a 45-38 lead with 16:13 to play in the game.

The sequence would prove to change the whole complexion of the contest with the Pacers going ahead by as many as 20 points down the stretch in their eventual 14-point victory.

USC Aiken ended its win over Clayton State shooting 51 percent (26-for-51) from the field. The Pacers knocked down 60 percent (9-for-15) of their 3-point attempts as a team. USC Aiken was stout at the charity stripe in the game, connecting on 82.8 percent (24-for-29) of its free throw attempts.

Clayton State shot just 37.5 percent (24-for-64) from the field in the game. The Lakers could only manage to connect on 31.3 percent (5-of-16) of their 3-point attempts as a squad. Clayton State was also strong at the free throw line, connecting on 85.7 percent (18-for-21) of its attempts at the charity stripe.