In what’s becoming a bit of a routine, the No. 5 USC Aiken women’s basketball team collected a runaway 78-47 win over Catawba to give head coach Mike Brandt his 450th career victory.
Brandt said that the milestone win had a couple of meanings for him.
“It means I’m getting older and older and older. At this time of the season, it’s just another win, and I do appreciate every win we could possibly get,” he said. “It’s a credit to the players. I’ve been fortunate to have a good situation with good players. They make the game a lot of fun.”
The Pacers (3-0) have won each of their games this year by at least 21 points.
The Indians (0-2) held their final lead of the game at 6-4 before Daniela Tarailo gave the Pacers the lead for good with more than 16 minutes remaining in the first half. For the second straight game, the senior captain made five three-pointers to tie for the team lead with 15 points on the night with Kayla Harris, who added seven rebounds. Mackenzie Reese rounded out the double-digit scorers for the Pacers with 12 points and also had seven rebounds.
It was the second consecutive game that Reese, a 5-foot-10 sophomore forward, has come off the bench to be among the leading Pacers statistically.
“A lot of times from freshman to sophomore you have a giant gap or a giant leap of improvement,” Brandt said. “I think she’s done a great job, and her confidence probably the most important thing that’s really gone up. She’s a great player, and she’s letting it show right now.”
Reese said that she just tries to give her all to the team in any way possible, evident in her three assists, one block and two steals to go with the points and rebounds.
“I just always hustle every play and do what I can,” she said.
Point guard Brittany Hill led the team in rebounds with eight and assists with six and also added six points. Only two Pacers went to the free throw line, with Harris going 7-for-8 from the charity stripe and Tiffani Moody making 1 of 2 attampts.
The scoring overall was spread out for USCA, though. Eleven Pacers got playing time for the home team, and 10 of them put points on the board.
Reese said getting everybody involved makes for an enjoyable evening.
“It’s really fun when our team is so balanced like that because we know we’re deep enough and have the talent, so it’s really fun to get everyone involved,” she said.
The balance wasn’t limited to the offensive end for the Pacers, who also held Catawba to a 27.8 percent shooting effort on field goals for the night. Six USCA players had at least four rebounds, with 16 of the team’s 41 boards coming from the starting guard combo of Hill, Tarailo and Mia Antoine.
Brandt said the Indians’ offensive gameplan made that team effort necessary.
“They played a perimeter style of offense, and we did a good job defending it. We switched a lot out there,” Brandt said. “It forced our big players to even be outside like that, so when you’re forcing them to do that, you’ve got to make sure everybody’s aware of getting the rebound so it just kind of spreads it out.”
For the game, the Pacers shot 50.8 percent from the field as a team, including a 10-for-21 (47.6 percent) effort from beyond the 3-point line. USCA made 7 of 9 long ball attempts in the second half, including their first four of the frame to help extend a 36-21 halftime lead to a 24-point margin with just over 11 minutes remaining. The Indians looked ready to cut into the Pacer lead before back-to-back 3-pointers by Antoine pushed the lead to 30 with 6:23 remaining.
Led mostly by reserves, the Pacers held the visitors at 47 points for the last three minutes of the game. Keeping opponents under 50 points has been a mark of success for USCA under Brandt, and it was a goal the Pacers wanted to reach tonight.
“We really focused on, ‘Hey, let’s try to keep them under 50, try to keep them under 50,’?” Brandt said. “And we said we’re going to have some players coming in that are going to be fresh. They may not be our most talented players, but they’re going to be fresh. So pick up the defense and make sure you get the job done, and they did.”
The Pacers will next host Florida Tech on Nov. 25.
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.