Pacers edge Jaguars 53-51

By Chris Gay 
Staff Writer, Augusta Chronicle 

AIKEN - Picked to finish ninth in the Peach Belt Conference preseason coaches poll, USC Aiken finds itself tied for the North Division lead.

The Pacers stifled the Jaguars offense, held off a second-half charge and defeated Augusta State 53-51 at the Courthouse on Wednesday night.

``We came into this game and felt like we were playing for the top spot in the (PBC) North Division,'' Pacers coach Mike Roberts said. ``This was like a tournament game.''

USC Aiken (10-5, 5-1) held Augusta State (10-5, 5-1) to 28 percent shooting from the field. The two teams are now tied atop the division.

The Pacers, which shot just 31 percent from the floor, held a 51-48 lead and had the ball with just less than a minute remaining. But Areon Atkinson drew all air on a 3-point attempt, and Augusta State had a chance to tie the game.

Festus Hawkins tried to set a pick for 3-point threat Gary Boodnikoff on the right wing. With a man in his face, the junior guard forced up a bomb from the left corner.

The ball bounced off the back iron, and a scramble ensued for the loose ball. Art Salary ended up with the ball and was fouled with seven seconds left in the game. The Pacers guard drained two free throws to clinch the game.

``We set a little double screen for (Boodnikoff), and he was a little late coming off the screen,'' Jaguars coach Gary Tuell said. ``It's tough to get guys open against Aiken because they have quick defenders.''

The Pacers held the Jaguars to just four field goals in the first 15 minutes and went up 19-12 when Salary dunked his own missed shot.

Atkinson and Dain Brown combined for 5-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc in the first half. Atkinson swished a 21-footer with 4:03 left before halftime to give USC Aiken a 28-15 lead.

T.J. Ott scored the Jaguars' sixth field goal of the half on a fast-break lay-in. But USC Aiken's Eric Dugans hit a baseline jumper, and the Pacers took a 30-17 halftime lead.

Hawkins, who carried the Jaguars with all 21 of his points in the second half, made eight straight free throws in the first six minutes of the second half, and Augusta State closed the gap to 32-29.

Five minutes later, Brown drove the baseline and scored on a reverse layup, which gave the Pacers a seven-point lead with 9:40 remaining in the game.

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