USC AIKEN 100, FRANCIS MARION 82
By JEREMY TIMMERMAN
If the Francis Marion men’s basketball team wanted a perimeter shooting contest when they visited USC Aiken on Saturday, that’s what they got. Unfortunately for the Patriots, the home Pacers got the better end of a 100-82 win.
The teams combined for 28 made 3-pointers on the night out of 57 attempts, but the Pacers (12-5, 8-2 Peach Belt Conference) were able to maintain a high level of offense for the entire game while the Patriots (6-9, 2-7) cooled off.
Pacer head coach Vince Alexander said that he’s known since the two teams played on Dec. 17 – a 108-79 USCA win – that the Patriots’ up-tempo style played right into his team’s strengths.
“This is the way we play. When they play like that and doing what they do, it actually motivates us and keeps us going,” Alexander said. “Our guys, this is the way we practice every day; this is the way we play.”
In all, five Pacers scored in double-digits, led by Jesse Seilern with 21 points to match his career high. He padded his total with a 3-for-5 effort from beyond the 3-point arc.
Seilern said that, even against a team that the Pacers know they can score in bunches against, the focus is still on the other end of the floor.
“We always approach the game with a defensive mindset, so we know the offense is going to come to us, especially with a home game,” he said.
Ronald Zimmerman wasn’t far behind Seilern with a 6-for-10 night from deep for 18 points. Senior point guard Re’mon Nelson had 17 points to go with six assists.
Kinley Branch had 16 points for the Pacers and hit a trio of first-half 3-pointers, and DeVontae Wright barely missed a double-double with 15 points and nine assists. Paul Larsen also approached a double-double with nine points and 10 rebounds.
The home team actually trailed for a good bit of the first half, with the Patriot lead stretching to as many as five points with 3:49 left before halftime. That was because of a 10-for-17 3-point shooting effort in the first half for the visitors that included 4-of-6 from beyond the arc for Dustin Jones, good for 18 first-half points. Jones finished with 21 points, as did teammate Evrik Gary.
A traditional three-point play by Kinley Branch sparked a 9-3 run to close out the half for the home team, and assisted by a pair of blocks by Larsen, the Pacers took a 42-41 lead into the break.
The Pacers hit seven of their 14 3-point attempts in the first half, but unlike the Patriots, the best was yet to come for USCA.
In less than eight minutes after halftime, the Pacers expanded their lead to 15 points on four more 3-pointers, three by Zimmerman. The lead eventually grew to 20 late, as the Patriots only made four of 13 second-half shots from beyond the arc.
USCA, on the other hand, went 7-of-13 from deep in the second half and also shot better overall after halftime, finishing with a 56.7 field-goal percentage on the night and a 51.9 percent mark from the 3-point line.
Alexander said that his team, which held the Patriots to 41 second-half points while scoring 58, was able to cruise to the win on the strength of its defense.
“They came out, they were hitting everything, and I thought our communication was really poor, but I thought once our guys settled down and started to communicate, we would get better,” he said. “We’re starting to get pretty good at communicating, which will help defensively, which you could see in the second half; it was a lot better.”
The Pacers will next host Flagler on Thursday before traveling to play rival Augusta State on Saturday.
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.