March 14, 2009

Courtesy of South Carolina Aiken Athletics

AUGUSTA, Ga. - The University of South Carolina Aiken won their first NCAA Tournament game since 1998 in dominating fashion over Lenoir-Rhyne University on Saturday afternoon with an 88-70 victory over the Bears. The Pacers never trailed in the game on the way to the dominating victory.
 
The Pacers advance to the semifinal round of the Southeast Regional of the NCAA Division II Tournament where they will face a familiar foe in the Southeast Region semifinals in Catawba College.
 
The Pacers and Indians will square off at 5 p.m. on Sunday, March 15 at Christenberry Fieldhouse for the right to move on to the NCAA Division II “Sweet Sixteen.”
 
The last time USC Aiken advanced to the semifinals of the Southeast Regional in 1998 the Pacers fell to the same Catawba team they will face in tomorrow's showdown at 5 p.m. in Christenberry Fieldhouse.
 
Ironically prior to Saturday's quarterfinal win over Armstrong Atlantic State, the win over the Pacers in the 1998 Southeast Regional was the last NCAA Tournament win for the Indians.
 
The total team effort by USC Aiken on Saturday involved eight Pacers playing double-digit minutes as USC Aiken dominated inside and out all afternoon.
 
Five Pacers scored in double figures in USC Aiken's best shooting performance of the season as Vince Alexander's squad connected on 33-of-49 attempts, shooting a season high 67. 3 percent from the floor. USC Aiken dominated inside, outscoring Lenior-Rhyne 51-22 in the paint and outrebounding the Bears 32-17 on the glass.
 
Peach Belt Conference Player of the Year and consensus first team all-region member Chris Commons (Toledo, Ohio/Findlay) led all scorers with 27 points in a clinical individual shooting performance. Commons shot 12-for-15 from the floor to go along with five rebounds, three assists and a block.
 
Junior guard Javonte Clanton (Columbus, Ohio/Blinn College) was masterful in directing the high-octane Pacer offense, scoring 19 points, dishing out six assists and grabbing one steal while committing just one turnover in 30 minutes of work for USC Aiken.
 
Clanton was perfect from the free-throw line going 11-for-11 on the day helping the Pacers finish 16-of-21 as a team from the charity stripe. Clanton has now hit 11 free throws in a game twice in the 2008-09 season as Clanton also knocked down 11 in a win over then nationally-ranked Armstrong Atlantic State at the Convocation Center in February.
 
Senior captain Cody Ballard (Westerville, Ohio/Moorehead State) led by example for the Pacers with a career and team-high nine rebounds to go with his 11 points. The totals left the USC Aiken captain just one board shy of his first career double-double.
 
Fellow senior Kingsley Oguchi (Houston, Texas/George Bush) was lethal from beyond the arc, hitting four three-pointers, including the first points of the game on a trey from the right corner to put the Pacers up 3-0 early.
 
Josh Dollard (Hemingway, S.C./Auburn) slammed home a dunk for two of his 10 points with 47 seconds left in the first half, but he wasn't finished scoring in the opening half as he received a pass from Clanton and hit a three-pointer as time expired to put the Pacers up by 14 points at 42-28 to close out the first stanza.
 
In the opening minutes of the second half Lenior-Rhyne cut the deficit to nine on a lay-up from D.J. Blackmon with 18:46 left.
 
USC Aiken countered with a lay-in from Ballard to push the lead back to 11 as the Pacers extended their lead to as many as 20 in the second half before finishing with the 18 point victory.
 
Lenior Rhyne was led by senior guard Josh Rudder with 24 points. The senior was 10-of-11 from the charity stripe in his final collegiate game.