USC Aiken Pacer men rise above foul issues
USC AIKEN 82 COLUMBUS STATE 70
By JEREMY TIMMERMAN
Fouls slowed the pace of the game but not the Pacer men, as USC Aiken took down visiting Columbus State 82-70 on Saturday for head coach Vince Alexander’s 250th career victory.
The Pacers (11-2, 3-0 Peach Belt Conference) were whistled for 22 fouls, while the Cougars (7-4, 1-3) got called for 36.
Senior forward Paul Larsen, who recorded his third straight double-double and fourth of the season with 19 points and 14 rebounds, said that the key to overcoming the start-and-stop nature of the game was concentration.
“We’ve just got to stay focused, just remember to keep up our game,” he said of a team that saw four players reach four fouls. Five Cougars reached that mark, with two fouling out.
Senior guard Devontae Wright was the Pacers’ leading scorer with 20 points, and he also had a team-high four assists to go with nine rebounds. Aiken Tech product Kenney Funderburk closed strong to lead the Cougars with 14 points, 12 in the second half.
USCA took a 12-point lead into halftime, thanks in large part to Larsen, who had 11 first-half points and eight boards before the break. He credited a chemistry with fellow post players Rick Alderman and Santoine Butler for the fast start.
“They played, like, a zone on us, so the posts – me, Rick and Santoine – worked well together,” Larsen said, noting the trio’s ability to cut toward the basket and also work in Alvin Brown, who led had five of his seven points in the game’s first few minutes.
Also boosting the Pacers’ first-half lead was an imbalance of free-throw attempts. The home team connected on 17 of 21 shots from the charity stripe before halftime, while the Cougars were 3-for-4.
That script flipped a little in the opening minutes of the second half, as the Cougars were shooting in the first bonus with seven Pacer fouls while the visitors had been called for only three.
In all, the home team was called for 16 second-half fouls, with Columbus State getting hit with 21. That led to a choppy second half and 52 total attempts from the free-throw line after halftime.
The Pacers were able to stretch their lead to 18 points early in the half before stingy Cougar defense allowed the visitors to whittle to within eight with three minutes remaining.
That’s as close as they got, though, with Alderman, Wright, Larsen and Jesse Seilern hitting on late free throws to ice the win.
Seilern, a senior guard that has been limited by a bad back, made the most of his 20 minutes of playing time. He scored 12 points with two assists and hit all seven of his free throw attempts.
On the defensive end, Brown and Butler did their usual job protecting the rim, as Brown finished with five blocks to Butler’s four.
The Pacers will be back in action Saturday at Montevallo.
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University. Follow him on Twitter @ASJTimm.