The USC Aiken men’s basketball team is hitting its stride. It enters tonight’s home game at the Convocation Center on a three-game winning streak and has prevailed in five of its past six overall. That strong play against Peach Belt Conference opponents has put the Pacers (12-5, 8-2) on top of the East Division standings, more than a game ahead of second-place Armstrong Atlantic State.
Tonight the Pacers will look to extend their recent string of success against Flagler. The Saints (9-8, 5-5) are fighting for playoff positioning, and are currently in fifth place in the East Division. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.
It’s no coincidence USCA is on a tear shooting the ball. For the season, it’s connecting on better than 48 percent of its field goal attempts and is posting more than 84 points per game – both second best in the PBC. It’s especially proficient behind the 3-point arc, where its hitting more than 42 percent of its long distance attempts – also second best in the league.
Top scorer Ronald Zimmerman – 16 points per game – has connected on 68 of 156 (44 percent) of his 3-point tries, making him one of the top shooters in the country. But he’s not the only Pacer sniper, as teammates Re’mon Nelson (14 ppg), Jesse Seilern (10 ppg) and Kinley Branch (9 ppg) have all hit more than 20 triples to date. In their last game, a 100-82 win over Francis Marion, the Pacers went 14-for-27 (52 percent) from 3-point range.
Overall, five USCA players finished the big win with double digit point totals, including Nelson. The senior point guard finished with 17 points, six assists and six rebounds, becoming just the 10th player in the programs Division II history to score more than 1,000 points. It’s a season of achievements for Nelson, who earlier became USCA’s all-time leader in steals. The next milestone in sight is the team’s all-time assist total. Nelson currently has 431 assists in his career and is nine shy of the team record.
The red-hot Pacers face an interesting challenge tonight against Flagler, which is holding opponents to a tick more than 67 points per game this season, the fewest allowed by any PBC team. After a rocky start in league play, the Saints have moved up the standings by winning five of their past six games. In the wins, they’ve limited opponents to an average of 63 points per game.
Although Flagler is in the middle of the pack scoring, it has one of the top players in the PBC. Senior forward Ante Gospic’s tied for fifth in the PBC with an average of 17.6 points per game, and leads the league with 9.7 rebounds per game. At 6-foot-8, Gospic’s one of the true big men in the PBC and composes a formidable front line for the Saints, along with Adam Jones. The 6-9 forward is posting averages close to 10 points, 5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game.
Their contributions are among many for the Saints, who have helped them rise from the dregs of the PBC to a team currently breaking even in most statistical areas. Matt Clark is posting 13.5 points per game, while Matt Conway – another big man at 6-7 – and Richard brown are combining to add more than 17 points per game. If the Saints dictate the pace of play and overwhelm the Pacers with their height advantage, it could be a very difficult game for the East Division leaders.
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: No. 6 USCA (12-5, 8-2 PBC) vs. Flagler (9-8, 5-5 PBC)
When: Today, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Convocation Center
USCA: Jesse Seilern, Sr. G/F. Seilern is coming off his best game of the season, where he tied his career high with 21 points, and the player known for filling all columns of the stat sheet did it again with along with five rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block.
FLAGLER: Ante Gospic, Sr. F. Gospic leads the league, and the PBC, with a shade less than 10 rebounds per game to go along with a team-high 17.6 points per game – fifth best in the PBC.