Jaguars defeat Pacers 72-63

By Miguelangelo Hernandez 
Staff Writer, Augusta Chronicle

Gary Tuell missed Augusta State's huge win over Life University on Monday. He's glad he stuck around Wednesday night against USC Aiken.

The Jaguars erased a nine-point halftime deficit and turned it into a 72-63 mugging of the Pacers in Peach Belt Conference action at the ASU athletic complex.

``I was not going anywhere tonight; I didn't want to miss this,'' the Augusta State coach said. ``I didn't think this game would be this hard. We didn't play well in the first half, and we didn't shoot the ball well, and that's a credit to Aiken. They're a good team.''

With the win, Augusta State continues to lead the overall series between the schools at 21-14. More importantly, the Jaguars and Pacers now are tied in the Northern Division with seven games to go in the regular season. Both teams will play four of the remaining seven games on the road.

Augusta State fell behind by 11 six minutes into the second half, after Dain Brown hit two 3-pointers and former South Aiken standout Michael Tyler drilled three free throws.

The Jaguars (13-6, 7-2) went on a 32-10 run over the next nine minutes to pull away from USC Aiken (13-6, 7-2). The run was part of a 52-point, second-half performance by the Jaguars that was led by junior guard T.J. Ott.

Ott poured in a game-high 25 points and was one of four players to reach double figures for Augusta State. Russell Hinder and Gary Boodnikoff each had 15, while 6-foot-11 senior center Festus Hawkins chipped in 11 points.

Brown had a team-high 23 points to pace USC Aiken, while Chris Robinson added 14.

``My team did a great job, and it could be worse, but we're still tied for first,'' Pacers coach Mike Roberts said. ``I don't think you have to take one in the grill to get refocused, but it certainly changes the scenario. We have a couple games at home, and I think it gives us an opportunity to get back on our feet.''

Augusta State's win avenges its 53-51 loss at The Courthouse on Jan. 17 and snaps the Pacers' four-game winning streak.

With the Jaguars and Pacers trading points, Boodnikoff, coming off a career night against Life, hit two critical 3-pointers from the right wing to push Augusta State up 50-43. After Robinson hit a jumper, Ott scored six of the team's next 11 points to give Augusta State its biggest lead of the night, 59-45.

USC Aiken shot 44 percent in the first half (11-of-25), compared to the Jaguars' mere 32 percent (8-of-25), including 1-of-10 from behind the arc.

The teams traded places in the second half, as Augusta State shot an astounding 73 percent (16-of-22), including four of seven 3-pointers 16 of 17 from the free-throw line.

USC Aiken, which was picked in the preseason poll to finish ninth, hit just eight of 25 shots (32 percent) but made four of its eight 3-point attempts.

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