Through eight games, the USC Aiken men’s basketball team has experienced peaks and valleys. Still, head coach Vince Alexander is pleased with what he’s seen from the Pacers so far.

The team is 6-2 and started the season with a pair of home wins before dropping its first two road games, the second of which included a double-digit Pacer comeback that ended up not being enough. USCA responded, though, by rattling off four straight wins and beat the first two Peach Belt Conference foes on its schedule. The second of those victories came against Francis Marion – a team that has scored as many as 150 points in a game this year – by a 108-79 margin on the road.

“I feel like the team is headed in a good direction,” Alexander said of his team, which has one more game in the 2012 portion of the season. “We knew it would be a big test for us.”

Alexander added what he didn’t expect is that the Pacers would have to face that exam without Rick Alderman, Maurice Hubbard and – for the most part – Devontae Wright. All three have been sidelined by injuries.

Wright scored 15 points, had four assists and knocked down two of three 3-point attempts in the Pacers’ season-opening win over NAIA competitor Voorhees. But he’s been out since with issues to his wrist and back.

Alexander said that the team, particularly starting point guard Re’Mon Nelson, will welcome the presence of the transfer from The Citadel in the rotation again soon.

“Re’mon has certainly been doing a good job, but he’s been playing a ton of minutes,” Alexander said.

Nelson’s averaging 32.5 minutes per game, and has played 36 or more minutes three times already this season. The senior guard is averaging 13.4 points, 7.4 assists and three steals a contest. He recently broke the programs’ career steals record and the four-year Pacer currently has 165.

In the meantime, Alexander has been pleased with the results he’s gotten from freshman Grant Harris. He pointed specifically to the team’s 86-79 home victory over UNC Pembroke. In that game, Harris made a 3-pointer and dished out two assists without a turnover in 8 minutes of playing time against a team that Alexander said is always one of the toughest foes in the PBC.

“As a freshman, he’s played in some big games,” Alexander said.

Another player Alexander said has been a pleasant surprise is Shane Porchea. The junior transfer from USC Upstate, Porchea is averaging 3.5 points, one assist and 2.6 rebounds and has five steals and three blocks to his credit while playing a little more than 14 minutes per game.

“He has really turned into one of those blue-collar guys who does all the dirty work,” Alexander said of Porchea.

Of course, Alexander also pointed out Pacers’ statistical leaders. In addition to Nelson, the Pacers have gotten big numbers out of holdovers from last year like Ronald Zimmerman and Jesse Seilern. Transfers Santoine Butler and Paul Larsen have made an immediate impact.

Zimmerman’s leading the team in scoring with 18.9 points per game, while Seilern is making better than 81 percent of his free throws. Butler and Larsen are each scoring better than 13 points per game, and Butler leads the team in blocks with 3.5 a game, while Larsen leads the way in rebounds with eight on average.

After one more non-conference game against King on Sunday at 3 p.m., that core will lead the Pacers into their PBC slate. Even though the conference includes No. 12 Augusta State, Alexander said he isn’t sure where his team will stack up against conference competition because of differences in opponents.

Still, he feels confident in his team’s performance so far.

“It’s tough to measure,” he said. “I would certainly think that we would be in the top 3 in the conference.”

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