AIKEN, SC--The USC Aiken Pacers (10-5, 5-1 in PBC) extended their home court winning streak to seven games, among the longest active streaks in the nation, with a 53-51 win over archrival Augusta State University (10-5, 5-1 PBC) Wednesday night in Peach Belt Conference men's basketball. USCA avenges last year's 60-55 loss in Aiken and moves the Pacers into a tie atop the North Division standings with ASU.
Art Salary finished with a team high 13 points to go with six rebounds and five assists in 31 minutes of action for the Pacers. Areon Atkinson connected on 3-of-7 from the three-point arc to add nine points. As a team, the Pacers were a blazing 6-of-9 from long range (66.7 percent) in the first half, but a frigid 0-of-9 in the second half.
Augusta State dominated the boards 46-30 and outscored USCA 22-11 from the charity stripe, but USCA's pressure defense forced 20 Jaguar turnovers while committing just 10 themselves. ASU also shot just 28.3 percent from the field (13-of-46) including 20.0 percent from downtown (3-of-15).
The Pacers used a 11-3 run over the final 6:33 of the first half to take a their biggest advantage of the half (30-17) into the lockeroom at the break. T.J. Ott led the Jags in the first stanza with 10 points and four rebounds. He finished with 13 points and seven boards for ASU.
Festus Hawkins, averaging 17.7 PPG entering tonight, scored all of his game high 21 points in the second half to pace the Jaguar comeback. Hawkins was 12-of-14 from the line while grabbing six rebounds and swatting four shots.
A 12-2 run in the opening 5:55 of the second half cut the margin to just three at 32-29 on a pair of Hawkins' free throws. USCA then scored the next six points to extend the bulge back to eight points, but it would stay a close ballgame down to the finish until Salary's two free throws with 0:07 left sealed the 53-48 win. Hawkins hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to set the score at 53-51.
Michael Tyler added eight of the Pacers' 13 bench points while swiping a team high four steals. Dain Brown chipped in eight points and Adam Waskavitz tallied seven.
Augusta State came into Wednesday's game as the fourth ranked team in the latest South Atlantic Region poll (released Jan. 17). USCA debuted in the poll at number 10.
Augusta State returns home to host USC Spartanburg on Saturday at 7:30 PM.