Like many people across the country, USC Aiken senior guard Re’Mon Nelson said he and his teammates went into Saturday’s home game against UNC Pembroke – an 86-79 Pacer victory – with more than basketball on their minds.

“Before the game, we’d seen the stuff on the news with the kids in Connecticut, and ... it was on my heart; it was on our team’s heart,” Nelson said. “As far as the game, we just stuck with it. We’ve got a good group of guys that just focus and believe in our system. ... They went up a couple points. We just weathered the storm because we knew it was going to be a battle with Pembroke.”

That battle reached its peak in the second half, when Nelson scored 21 of his game-high 25 points.

On the strength of 12 first-half points by Santoine Butler, who finished with 18, and an 11-point half by Ronald Zimmerman, who went scoreless after the break, the Pacers (4-2, 1-0 Peach Belt Conference) held a 43-39 lead at halftime. After a few early second-half baskets for the home team pushed the margin to 11, the Indians (6-4) began chipping away and took a 59-58 lead with 11:07 remaining – their first lead of the game.

The visitors led by as many as five before Nelson and the Pacers went on a 15-0 run to take a 73-63 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish. Nelson scored eight points during the roughly 6-minute stretch to score 25 points, matching his career high.

Head coach Vince Alexander said that Nelson is the Pacers’ leader in many ways, and that the senior showed it on Saturday.

I thought he carried this team with his heart tonight. He carried this team,” Alexander said. “When they went up three, he didn’t panic; we didn’t panic. He just put the team on his back and said, ‘OK, Let’s go. I’ll do some things, and we’ll get rolling.’ He did a great job.”

Two other Pacers scored in double figures to bring the total to five, as Paul Larsen tallied 13 points, and Kinley Branch added 11.

The win was a milestone for Alexander, as his 129 wins at the USCA helm is tied with Larry Epperley for the most as a Pacers’ head coach. Alexander credited current and past assistants and players for the accomplishment but said he hadn’t been focusing on it.

“I didn’t even know it was tied until I heard them say that at the end of the game, but it’s a blessing,” he said.

USCA will look for its first road win of the year on Monday against Francis Marion before hosting Paine College next Wednesday. Both games are set to tip-off at 7:30 p.m.

Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.