Pacers live up to the billing

AIKEN - After a month on the road, USC Aiken returned to its friendly confines with its first top-10 ranking.

The eighth-ranked Pacers extended their winning streak to three with an 84-61 win over Georgia Southwestern on Saturday night.

After four consecutive road games, the Pacers (12-1) finally returned home. USC Aiken improved to 6-0 in its new arena.

"We're really blessed here at home," Pacers coach Vince Alexander said. "Praise God, we haven't lost here."

The Pacers pushed their Peach Belt Conference record to 6-0. They lead Augusta State by 1 1/2 games after the 22nd-ranked Jaguars defeated Armstrong Atlantic State on the road, 83-82, in overtime Saturday evening.

The game in Aiken pitted the top two scorers in the Peach Belt Conference, USC Aiken junior forward Chris Commons (23.9 points per game) and Georgia Southwestern's Anthony Sargent (23.1).

Sargent ended the night with 19 points on 6-for-19 shooting to lead the Hurricanes.

Commons posted 12 points, his second-lowest total this season, but played just 24 minutes in the blowout. He scored in double digits for the 12th time.

Pacers junior guard Jeremy Fears, who averaged 26 points the previous four games, drained four 3-pointers in the first half for 16 points entering halftime. Fifth in conference scoring, he finished with a team-high 20 points and six boards.

Fears' lone miscue came in the first half when he blew a fast-break layup and hung on the rim with one hand and tipped the rebound in with the other. He was called for a technical foul.

Kingsley Oguchi added 11 points and seven rebounds for USC Aiken. Cordaryl Ballard chipped in with 10 points and seven assists.

Sporting the league's second-highest scoring offense, USC Aiken hit the 80-point mark for the seventh consecutive contest. The Pacers shot 48 percent from the field and out-rebounded the Hurricanes, 46-27.

Georgia Southwestern (4-8, 1-4), which extended its losing streak to seven, had four players foul out and ended the game with just five players.

The Hurricanes hung tough with the Pacers for most of the first half. But USC Aiken closed the half with an 18-7 run the final six minutes before intermission to pull free. Fears bombed a 3-pointer from the top of the key with six seconds left before intermission. The Pacers led 47-30.

Georgia Southwestern shot 39 percent from the field, including a 4-for-13 effort from the perimeter. Aaron Wyatt added 15 for the Americus, Ga., school.

The Hurricanes entered ninth of 11 league teams in scoring defense, allowing 73.1 points a game. They also entered last in three-point field-goal percentage defense, a noticeable weakness the Pacers attacked.

USC Aiken shot 12-for-26 from the perimeter.

"Our guys here have worked hard on their shooting," Alexander said. "We spend a lot of time in practice on defense and shooting."

The Pacers now have a week off before a tough two-game road stretch beginning with Saturday's game at Columbus State. The Pacers then head to Augusta State two days later.

"I've already learned a lot about my team," Alexander said. "After those two games, we'll learn a lot more."

GEORGIA SOUTHWESTERN (4-8, 1-4)--Frederick Jackson 3-5 5-8 11, Michael Carter 1-1 0-3 2, Aaron Wyatt 5-11 2-2 15, Rick Russell 2-3 0-0 4, Anthony Sargent 6-19 6-8 19, Corey Ward 1-4 4-5 6, Ric Roderick 0-2 0-0 0, Travis Owsley 2-6 0-0 4, Dannie Hunt 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 20-51 17-26 61.

USC AIKEN (12-1, 6-0)--Jeremy Fears 6-14 4-5 20, Cordaryl Ballard 4-8 1-4 10, Chris Commons 4-7 4-7 12, Job Casimir 2-3 3-3 9, Kingsley Oguchi 4-8 0-0 11, Seth Leonard 1-2 2-4 5, Jakub Gadomski 1-3 1-2 3, Casey McMasters 1-3 0-0 3, Jores Dongo 1-2 2-6 4, Rashad Flowers 1-1 2-2 4. Totals: 26-54 20-35 61.

HALFTIME: USC Aiken 47-30. 3-point goals: Georgia Southwestern 4-13 (Wyatt 3-6, Sargent 1-4, Ward 0-1, Roderick 0-2), USC Aiken 12-26 (Fears 4-7, Ballard 1-2, Casimir 2-3, Oguchi 3-6, Leonard 1-2, Gadomski 0-2, Simmons 0-1, McMasters 1-3). Rebounds: Georgia Southwestern 27 (Jackson 9), USC Aiken 46 (Oguchi 7). Assists: Georgia Southwestern 9 (Carter 2), USC Aiken 17 (Ballard 7). Turnovers: Georgia Southwestern 19, USC Aiken 20. Fouls: Georgia Southwestern 30, USC Aiken 25. Fouled out: Jackson, Carter, Russell, Owsley. A-1552.