MONTEVALLO, Ala. -- For the fourth consecutive game, Wingate turned in another gritty performance down the stretch in the second half as they held USC Aiken to only one field goal in the final six minutes to take a 73-70 win in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The seventh-seeded Bulldogs advance to the field of 32 to play fellow South Atlantic Conference member Anderson (S.C.) Sunday.

Leading by two with 38 seconds left, Wingate (21-11) knocked down four-of-four free throws to make it a three point advantage. The Pacers called timeout with nine seconds remaining and had to settle for a tying three point attempt from 24 feet away that missed everything and sealed the upset for the Bulldogs.

“This team is such a tough-minded group and every time we got knocked down, we got up and kept grinding away at them in second half,” Wingate head coach Brian Good says. “I was really happy about the great start but we got caught up in the lead instead of just playing our game. In the second half we got back to who we were.”

Senior guard Jaime Vaughn led the Bulldogs with 22 points, his 25th double-figure scoring game of the year. He also knocked down all eight free throw attempts on the afternoon. Junior forward Odell Turner posted his fifth double-double, scoring 16 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. Senior guard Chase Smith added 13 points. The Bulldogs knocked down 21-of-22 free throws in Saturday's win, compared to just 11-of-20 for the Pacers.

Vaughn, who was playing in his 110th career game at Wingate, was proud of his team Saturday. “This means so much to us because it was our first time in tournament and to get past the first round makes it a great experience,” Vaughn says. “We have to forget about the win against Anderson in the SAC championship and just play our game and continue to play hard.”

The Bulldogs, who came in without any NCAA experience on their 12-man roster, fell down 5-2 in the early minutes of action. Wingate shook off the nerves and responded with a 13-2 run to take a 15-7 lead with six minutes played. Vaughn and sophomore forward Deion Turman each scored four points in the spurt.

The Pacers continued to put pressure on Wingate but the ‘Dogs kept the lead between four and eight in the next seven minutes of play. After freshman forward Mike Tyson  banked in a turn around jumper to make it 27-21, USC Aiken closed the half on a 14-2 run. Pacer junior guard Terrence Dent sandwiched two three-point baskets around two Wingate turnovers to tie it at 27.

Wingate called timeout down four with under a minute remaining but turned it over, leading to an easy layup for USCA. The Bulldogs were unable to get a shot off before half and trailed 35-29 at halftime. Wingate gave up 52 percent shooting to USCA in the first 20 minutes.

The Pacers kept the lead between four and eight points for the first seven minutes of the second half. Smith buried a three with 12 minutes remaining to cut Aiken’s lead to two at 51-49. The Pacers built the lead back to four on a jumper from junior forward Rick Alderman  with 10:19 remaining. Vaughn answered for the Bulldogs, hitting a pair of free throws and a triple to put the Bulldogs on top by one with 9:32 to go. Nelson answered with a triple to give USC Aiken the lead back, but junior guard Ethan Kincaid tied it on the next trip with a jumper.

Turner answered an Aiken bucket with a  big triple, while a pair of free throws from Smith put Wingate on top 67-64 with 2:39 remaining. USC Aiken answered with a free throw to cut the lead to two, but Vaughn again had the answer, driving in for a layup with the shot clock expiring to make it 69-65 with 50 seconds left. Junior guard Re’mon Nelson knocked down a three with 16 seconds to go, but Vaughn calmly knocked down a pair of free throws on the other end, forcing the Pacers to go for a three on the final possession.

Wingate shot 54.8 percent from the field on the day, hitting six-of-12 shots from three-point range (50 percent). USC Aiken shot 50 percent from the field, while also connecting on 50 percent of shots from beyond the arc (seven-for-14). The Pacers held a 27-24 rebounding advantage, while Wingate scored 15 points off of nine USC Aiken turnovers.