This season has been like a dance for the USC Aiken men’s basketball team. Unfortunately for them, it’s the cha-cha.
Every time they take two steps forward, it seems to be followed by a step back. Today, the Pacers (7-3, 3-0 Peach Belt Conference) will try to buck that trend when they go for a second win in a row and a fourth consecutive win over a PBC opponent. Coming off Thursday’s 67-64 win at Georgia Southwestern, USCA will travel to Columbus State. Tip-off is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.
If the Pacers need any extra motivation beyond finding a consistent winning formula and maintaining their strong start in conference play, they have it today. This is the team and the arena that cost USCA a chance at hosting the Division II NCAA Tournament Southeast Regional last season. In the last meeting between USCA and Columbus State (5-5, 0-3), the Cougars prevailed 75-74 in double overtime of a PBC Tournament semifinal game played at the Lumpkin Center.
As it is in most games, rebounding figures to be a factor in the outcome. The Pacers aren’t a big team, but have managed to outrebound their opponents by an average of two boards per game this season. Columbus State is 5-0 this season when is own the rebounding edge, but the Cougars have a -10.3 rebounding margin in PBC games. CSU is averaging just 29.7 boards in three conference games so far. USCA is averaging better than 37 rebounds per game in conference play.
As is the case with everything it does, the Pacers rely on a balanced effort and contributions from a number of players. Four Pacers are averaging double-figure totals in scoring – Ronald Zimmerman, Santoine Butler, Re’mon Nelson and Paul Larsen – and they’re a fairly accurate shooting team, connecting on better than 47 percent of their field goal attempts. But the path to sustained success will be in sound defense, which they played on Thursday, keeping Georgia Southwestern below the average field-goal percentage for Pacer opponents this season. If they keep the Cougars below the 41 percent they’ve connected at this season, it stands to reason the Pacers will win again.
Noah Feit is the sports editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than a dozen years after graduating from Syracuse University.
What: USC Aiken men’s basketball
Who: USCA (7-3, 3-0 PBC) vs. Columbus State (5-5, 0-3 PBC)
When: Today, 3:30 p.m.
Where: Lumpkin Center, Columbus, Ga.
USCA: Santoine Butler, Jr. F. In his first season with the Pacers, Butler is the team’s second-leading scorer (13.3 ppg) and is coming off a 15-point, 4-rebound performance in the win over Georgia Southwestern.
COLUMBUS STATE: Rory Miller, Sr. F. The 6-foot-7 Miller is the Cougars’ leader in scoring (12.9) and rebounding (7.2) this season, and is coming off a 15-point performance in their last game, a loss to Lander.