Pacers cruise to opening win over Tigers
USC AIKEN 92, VOORHEES 72
By Scott Rodgers
For USC Aiken, a win is a win, but this one wasn’t as easy as the score indicates.
The Pacers (1-0) were in a chippy matchup with Voorhees (5-2), but it was still a 92-72 win. USCA never trailed and jumped out to a quick 15-3 lead in the first five minutes. Even though the scoreboard may tell one tale, it was a physical game that challenged the Pacers.
“They came out pretty physical, you know, I thought our guys did a decent job,” said USCA head coach Vince Alexander. “I don’t think we defended the way we’re supposed to, we should be defending a lot better by now. I don’t think we played with urgency. That team was hungry; that team wanted to win. That’s a big game for them, and I don’t think our guys responded to that challenge.”
In the first half, the Pacers were able to hold a consistent lead, being as far ahead as 17 and ending the first half with a 46-31 lead. Going into the locker room DeVontae Wright led all scorers with 13 points while Kinley Branch was right behind him with 12, three of which came on a last second shot. The two teams also had a combined 22 fouls, with the Pacers having 10 of them.
“I think they played and said, ‘OK, when they come at us we’re going to play a bit tougher,’ but to me you have to play that way the whole game,” Alexander said.
The second half was more of the same, with the Tigers only getting within 13 before the Pacers pulled away. Branch finished the game as the Pacers’ leading scorer with 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting, four rebounds and four assists.
“We came out with a lot of energy,” Branch said. “Coach said to come out with a lot of energy and to have fun playing as a team. He also said that we needed to come out with defensive principles and I don’t feel like we really accomplished that in the second half. In the first half we came out OK, but in the second half we kind of fell back as far as closeouts and boxing out.”
Paul Larsen had a double-double, going for 14 points on and 10 rebounds in the win. But he also stressed that the team didn’t play up to their capability.
“I think we started off pretty hot; we had a lot of energy, but once we got a decent lead we kind of lost focus,” Larsen said. “It got a little bumpy, we quit closing out and got slower and I think we need to remain focused and keep the energy up and hustle to spots with more urgency.”
When it was all said and done, the Pacers had six double-digit scorers. Branch and Larsen were joined by Wright, who had 15, Jesse Silern, who had 16, Ronald Zimmerman, who had 12 and Re’mon Nelson, who had 10.
However, fouls became an issue for both teams. Larsen finished the night with five, Sielern had four and altogether the Pacers racked up 23 on the night.
They also had 25 turnovers.
“I think we have to remain focused and play with urgency for 40 minutes,” Alexander said. “You’re going to make mistakes, but you have to make sure that you make mistakes playing your tail off. I thought that today we made unforced turnovers and their penetration killed us. We did a poor job rotating and doing the things we needed to do. They got too many easy baskets and that’s not a staple of our team and our program. We don’t allow that.”
Even though he knows there are plenty of things to work on, Alexander was still complimentary of his team in the end.
“This is a good group of guys, they work hard, but they just haven’t gotten it yet,” Alexander said. “We’ve got to get them there.”
Scott Rodgers is a graduate of Alvernia Univeristy and a staff writer at the Aiken Standard.