After his team clinched the league title with three games remaining, Augusta State coach Dip Metress said the Jaguars have shifted their focus.
With its 102-91 win at Columbus State on Wednesday, Augusta State won its first outright Peach Belt Conference regular-season championship. The 10th-ranked Jaguars (20-3, 13-0), who play host to UNC Pembroke at 7:30 in tonight's homecoming tilt at Christenberry Fieldhouse, now have a chance to run the table in conference play.
"We've reestablished our goals," Metress said. "Why not try to win every game?"
Augusta State has a favorable chance of becoming just the second team to go 16-0 in the Peach Belt. The Jaguars play two of their remaining three at home, where they are undefeated this season. The biggest hurdle will be at No. 13 Clayton State on Wednesday.
Kennesaw State is the lone team to post a perfect league record since the Peach Belt expanded to a 16-game schedule. In 2003-04, the Owls went 35-4 overall en route to becoming the first conference team to win the Division II national championship.
Augusta State's best league mark in a 16-game schedule came during the 1998-99 season when it went 13-3 and claimed a share of the regular-season title.
Peach Belt commissioner and former Augusta State coach Marvin Vanover, who led his team to a 27-3 mark in 1969-70, said he's impressed with what he's seen of the Jaguars.
"I think they can go a long way because they're so versatile," he said. "They shoot the ball well. They have good quickness. They can play defense. They have good depth. The sky may be the limit for this team."
Against Columbus State, the Jaguars posted their highest point total of the season, unloading 61 second-half points on the Cougars. Augusta State did this minus freshman guard Ben Madgen, the team's second-leading scorer, who sat out an NCAA-mandated one-game suspension after getting ejected for "combative action" in the team's previous game.
Guards Daniel Dixon and Demetrius Howard took up the slack. Dixon scored 20 points on six 3-pointers, while Howard added 16 on five 3-pointers.
"Daniel made some shots. (Howard) played well," Metress said. "To win without (Madgen) helped us. Obviously, he's a big part of what we do."
Dixon and Howard added to the damage done by forward Tyrekus Bowman and center Garret Siler. Bowman posted 29 points on 13 of 18 shooting, while Siler added 20 points.
Augusta State continues to lead the Peach Belt in scoring at 81.5 points a game. UNC Pembroke is last in the category (58.0). The Braves (6-18) are the worst-shooting team in the Peach Belt, but they surprised Armstrong Atlantic State in January on the road.
"We want to win this one," Metress said. "It's homecoming. And we want to go undefeated in the league."
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.