March 15, 2009

Courtesy of Catawba Athletics

AUGUSTA, Ga. – The University of South Carolina Aiken will make its first ever trip to the NCAA Division II Sweet Sixteen after its 85–72 Southeast Regional semifinal victory over Catawba College Sunday night in Christenberry Fieldhouse.

The Pacers await the winner of the Augusta State and Barton College matchup in the other NCAA Southeastern Regional semifinal for the right to go to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight in Springfield, Mass. The championship game of the Southeast Regional will be played at 7 p.m. at Christenberry Fieldhouse on Tuesday, March 17.

The Pacers once again used a total team to punch their ticket into the Sweet Sixteen.

USC Aiken got double-digit minutes from seven different players and, for the second game in a row, double-digit scoring from five different players in the 13-point win over the Indians.

The Pacers picked up right where they left off from yesterday’s victory over Lenior-Rhyne which saw them shoot a season-high 67 percent from the floor.

USC Aiken shot an impressive 51.9 percent against Catawba connecting on 28-of-54 attempts, including 8-of-16 from three-point range.

Senior captain Cody Ballard (Westerville, Ohio/Moorehead State) continued his impressive NCAA Tournament play by leading the Pacers in scoring with 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting to go along with three rebounds, four assists and a steal.

All-South Atlantic Region Team selection Josh Dollard (Hemingway, S.C.) notched his team-leading ninth double-double of the season by scoring 16 points and grabbing a game-high 14 boards despite playing just 17 minutes. He had a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds already at halftime.

Junior guard Javonte Clanton (Columbus, Ohio/Blinn College) again was masterful directing the Pacer offense consistently penetrating the lane en route to 17 points, six rebounds a steal and an assist while committing just one turnover.

Fellow junior Seth Leonard (York, Penn/ Willam Penn) was tremendous defensively for the Pacers to go along with his perfect shooting performance. Leonard finished with 11 points on 3-of-3 shooting from the floor and 4-of-4 from the free-throw line.

All-American and two-time Peach Belt Conference Player of the Year Chris Commons (Toledo, Ohio/Findlay) added 11 points and 6 rebounds to round out the double-figure scoring marks for USC Aiken. Commons is now just six points away from securing his 2,000th-point as a college basketball player.

The Pacers wasted no time separating themselves from their opponent for the second game in a row, taking the lead permanently 2:26 into the first half and maintaining a double-digit lead for nearly the entire duration of the contest.

USC Aiken is now 3-2 in NCAA Division II Tournament action. The Pacers have advanced to the semifinals once before (1998), but its win on Sunday afternoon brings the Pacers into uncharted territory.

The Pacers will go into the championship game of the Southeast Regional with a 25-7 record. They have now won 52 games in the last two seasons, which is the greatest two-year run in Pacer basketball history.