Augusta State evens score with USC Aiken

Jags push home win streak to 24

The game plan Wednesday night was to establish Alex Smith early and often against USC Aiken.


But there was one more item of business Augusta State had to take care of first, the senior center said.

"We had to go out and throw the first punch," Smith said. "The last time, they hit us hard in the beginning and we weren't able to recover. We really felt like we needed to hit them hard."

Smith, Fred Brathwaite and the rest of their teammates slugged away, as the 12th-ranked Jaguars exacted revenge against the Pacers with a 73-59 win at Christenberry Fieldhouse.

Augusta State (18-2, 10-1) avenged its three-point defeat last Monday at USC Aiken and extended its home winning streak to 24 games in front of a school-record and Peach Belt Conference-record crowd of 3,718.

The Jaguars notched their 99th win in four seasons and extended their lead in the Peach Belt Conference East Division standings when Francis Marion lost on the road to UNC Pembroke. With seven games remaining, defending champion Augusta State holds a two-game advantage over the Patriots in the East Division standings.

"We just need to keep doing what we're doing and stay in first place," said Augusta State coach Dip Metress, whose plans of holding a fourth consecutive Division II Tournament regional remained on course with the Jaguars' No. 1 ranking in the second Southeast Region poll, which was released earlier in the day.

"We've got to win the Peach Belt regular season title."

USC Aiken (12-7, 7-5), No. 8 in the Southeast Region standings, continues to fight to stay alive for a Division II Tournament at-large berth. Against Augusta State this time, Pacers coach Vince Alexander said his returning players came out tentative and never got on track in the first half.

Augusta State scored the game's first eight points and never trailed. The Jaguars led by 17 at halftime and pushed their advantage to 26 in the second half.

"You have to give credit to Augusta State at home, they get off and they get going and they're rolling," Alexander said. "I certainly thought we were capable and I think we still are capable but we've got to do some things better than what we did and mainly we have to get off to a better start."

Augusta State focused early on attacking the basket and feeding Smith down low. He responded with a big effort after scoring seven points on just four shot attempts last week against the Pacers.

"I guess we shied away from that the first time. I guess we were too caught up in emotion," Smith said. "This time, we stuck to the game plan."

This time, Smith had 11 points and six rebounds by halftime. He finished the contest with a game-high 19 points on 8 for 14 shooting, with nine boards.

"Alex has been huge for us all year," said Augusta State guard Ben Madgen, who scored 18 points. "Whenever we get it in to him, good things happen."

Augusta State forward Fred Brathwaite found redemption after losing seven turnovers in last week's loss. Brathwaite recorded 17 points, 10 rebounds and four assists.

"He knows that was the worst game of his career," Metress said. "He's a good player. He takes a lot of pride in his game."

USC Aiken, led by Byron Faison's 17 points, was held to a season low in points.

The Pacers shot 42 percent from the field.

In the middle of the first half, Augusta State scored four consecutive layups during a 10-0 run to take a 25-8 lead.

"Augusta State's way too good for you to get down like that in the first half," Alexander said. "I don't think we shot the ball well at all. Of course, we got down, I thought, and they crashed the boards and did some good things."

Exclusively online

READ staff writer Chris Gay's blog from Wednesday's game.


PLAYER OF THE GAME: Alex Smith. The Augusta State center opened up things down low, posting 19 points with eight rebounds.

PLAY OF THE GAME: Smith's putback dunk with one second on the shot clock gave the Jaguars their biggest lead of the game at 52-26 early in the second half.

NEXT: USC Aiken (12-7, 7-5) at Flagler, 7:30 p.m., Monday; Augusta State (18-2, 10-1) at Lander, 3:30 p.m., Saturday.

IN CHARGE: Augusta State security.

With eight officers in the arena and a supervisor, security was a non-issue. The game featured a Peach Belt Conference record for attendance with 3,718 fans. The school put up ropes at the bottom of all the stairs, and no one rushed the court afterward.



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