Pacers men control Patriots

AIKEN --- Josh Dollard returned to the USC Aiken lineup Wednesday night, and the Pacers picked up another Peach Belt Conference victory with an 89-71 win over visiting Francis Marion.


Dollard, who made his return after sitting out two games -- including Monday night's loss at Augusta State -- for a violation of athletic department policies, did not start and played sparingly in a game in which USC Aiken (8-3, 3-1) never trailed.

The conference's sixth-leading scorer had nine points in 12 minutes and picked up a technical foul for arguing a call, but it didn't hinder USC Aiken from climbing back into the win column.

The Pacers, who fell to No. 11 in the latest NCAA Division II poll, responded as coach Vince Alexander expected.

"We didn't talk about Augusta State. We talked about Francis Marion and what we needed to do," he said. "I knew these guys would respond well. I wasn't concerned about that at all."

In a whistle-friendly game that saw the two teams combine for 54 fouls, USC Aiken shot 78.6 percent (33 of 42) from the free-throw line, while Francis Marion (8-2, 1-2) converted only 51.5 percent (17 of 33) at the foul line.

With the exception of an 11-11 tie five minutes into the first half, the Pacers led from start to finish.

"The game was called tight, and that didn't allow us to get into an up-and-down rhythm like we wanted to," Alexander said. "But I was proud of how we defended well, contested well and did a good job rebounding."

The Pacers outrebounded their opponents 53-38.

Junior guard Javonte Clanton scored 18 points and grabbed six rebounds, and Job Casimir hit 10 of 11 free-throw attempts and finished with 12 points. But it was forward Chris Commons who topped them all and became the conference's leading scorer with a 20-point, 11-rebound performance.

"It means something to me in that it's good to represent my team like that," Commons said, "but I don't score to see my name up there. I score so we can win."

The Patriots made multiple second-half mini-runs and pulled to within one point with 16 minutes left in the game.

But they spent the rest of the half on the wrong side of the whistle.

Francis Marion committed 16 second-half fouls. Forwards Kevin Clark and Matt French both fouled out.

And Francis Marion head coach Gary Edwards was ejected from the game after he picked up two technical fouls on the same play for arguing with the officials.

Reach Billy Byler at (706) 823-3216 or