The USC Aiken women’s basketball team suffered a bad loss Saturday. It was bad enough that the Pacers squandered a 10-point, second half lead before falling in overtime to Armstrong Atlantic State. What made it worse was the Pacers’ five-game winning streak was snapped by the last-place team in the Peach Belt Conference’s East Division.
Although USCA remains in first in the East standings – 1½ games ahead of Augusta State – it dropped seven spots in the USA Today Division II top-25 Coaches Poll, plummeting to 12th in the national rankings. It also eliminated it from surpassing No. 3 Clayton State for the overall PBC regular season title.
The Pacers (18-3, 11-3) will look to rebound from the loss today when it returns to action. They’ll play their last road game before three consecutive home dates when they travel to St. Augustine, Fla. to take on Flagler. The game in Flagler Gymnasium is set to tip-off at 5:30 p.m.
The teams played at the Convocation Center two weeks ago, and USCA used a smothering defensive effort to score a 65-40 victory. Since that game, the Saints (11-9, 8-6) have won four games in a row in dominating fashion. The stretch of wins, coming by an average of 18 points per game, has kept Flagler in the thick of the playoff race. It’s in third place in the East Division, three games behind USCA.
In the current string of success, the Saints have been led by Williesha Spencer. The PBC’s sixth-best scorer has exceeded her season average of 16.2 points per game, in the past four contests where she’s averaging a tick less than 21 points. One of the PBC’s top 3-point shooters, hitting better than 44 percent of her long-range shots, Spencer has made eight in the past four games. But the player who led the Saints with 15 points in the previous loss to USCA isn’t a gunner. Since the last loss, Spencer’s posted 18 assists.
Another factor that will likely make this game different from the previous dismantling is Flagler’s home-court advantage. Three of the past four wins have come at Flagler Gymnasium, where the Saints are a much tougher team to knock off. They’re 8-1 this season on the home hardwood, and haven’t lost on it since a Dec. 17 setback.
For the season, Flagler’s only hitting 35 percent of its field-goal attempts. If it struggles today, a great likelihood against the Pacers (allowing opponents to make 36 percent of their shots), this figures to be another USCA victory. But the Pacers have shown when opponents get in a good rhythm, they tend to struggle.
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 women’s basketball
Who: No. 12 USCA (18-3, 11-3 PBC) vs. Flagler (11-9, 8-6 PBC)
When: Today, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Flagler Gymnasium; St. Augustine, Fla.
USCA: Daniela Tarailo, Sr. G. Tarailo’s the Pacers’ go-to scorer and has delivered more often than not with averages of 16.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2 assists per game this season.
FLAGLER: Williesha Spencer, Jr. G. Spencer has averaged more than 20 points per game during the Saints current four-game winning streak and totaled 15 in the previous meeting with the Pacers.