LIVE BLOG: USC Aiken vs. Clayton State, Peach Belt Semifinals

AIKEN -- What's March Madness without a good upset? The No. 1 team in NCAA D-II (Augusta State) just got knocked out of the Peach Belt Conference tournament in the semifinals by Montevallo.

The door is now wide open for the USC Aiken Pacers, who need a win tonight over Clayton State to claim a spot in the Peach Belt Conference title game. Does Augusta State's loss mean the Pacers are the new favorites? We'll know soon.

We're 23 minutes away from the opening tip.

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Since Chris got to go off topic with his blog, I'll do the same. Alice in Wonderland is a movie I'll never see (I don't do creepy), I have no kids so no need to worry about toy lightsabers and a downtown baseball stadium would do nothing but help the city of Augusta. There, on to basketball...

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Starters:

USC Aiken: Seth Leonard, Re'mon Nelson, Mark Brown, Jores Dongo, Kevin Willis

Clayton State: Brandon Robinson, Robert Murry, Timmy Downs, Jaquas Dobbs, Armon Jones

What does this mean? USC Aiken is going with the same quirky starting line up with Dongo and Willis instead of Casey McMasters and Rashad Flowers. It worked wonders against Francis Marion in the first round.

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18:00 1st half Clayton State 2, Pacers 2: Both teams missed 3s to start the game, then Clayton State's Brandon Robinson scored the first bucket on a fastbreak dunk. Shot selection isn't great early on for either team - too many quick 3s.

Big crowd, but its not really into the game yet.

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15:34 1st half USC Aiken 8, Clayton State 2: Flowers, McMasters and Byron Faison just checked in for the first time. McMasters immediately hit a 3-pointer from the right corner. You can question USC Aiken coach Vince Alexander for keeping McMasters off the floor to start the game, but it sure is nice to have that spark off the bench.

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14:40 1st half USC Aiken 8, Clayton State 2: Both teams are in man-to-man on defense and neither are pressing. Offensively, they're both content to run their half-court offense, which has made for a slow pace of play. Clayton State is 1 of 8 from the field (12.5 percent). USC Aiken is 2 of 8 (25 percent). Yes, folks, one of these teams will play for a conference title tomorrow!

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12:45 1st half USC Aiken 12, Clayton State 6: Willis just picked up his second foul, which means he'll be sitting for a while. Dongo, who must have a good game, is making his presence known on the boards. Faison has been the only consistent scorer so far this game.

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9:13 1st half USC Aiken 16, Clayton State 15: Clayton State briefly showed a full-court press, which forced a turnover, but the Lakers pulled out of it. You get the sense that both teams are holding back just a little, taking a marathon approach more than a full sprint. You also get the sense that neither team could throw the ball into the ocean at this point. I'm talking a big ocean - not the Indian or Arctic - more like the Pacific. If made baskets were oil drums, the environmentalists would love this game. Clayton State is shooting 35 percent. USC Aiken is at 33.3 percent.

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4:40 1st half USC Aiken 23, Clayton State 22: What this game lacks in quality, it had made up for it in competitiveness. Eight consecutive baskets have either tied the score or created a lead change. It's like when you used to play basketball left-handed against your younger brother. The play wasn't pretty, but at least it was close.

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2:52 1st half USC Aiken 26, Clayton State 22: There's a pretty well known song out there that goes: "You don't tug on Superman's cape. You don't spit in the wind. You don't pull the mask off the Lone Ranger and you don't leave Casey McMasters open in the corner for a 3." Well, something like that. He just hit two to give the Pacers their biggest lead of the game. He's got 11 points in about that many minutes played.

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0:38 1st half USC Aiken 26, Clayton State 26: Timmy Downs just scored on a drive through traffic, then ripped Brandon Shephard for a steal and score to tie the game. Alexander called a timeout. He's looking for a halftime lead and wants to make this possession count.

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HALFTIME USC Aiken 26, Clayton State 26: Nelson dribbled around until the shock clock was almost up, then heaved a prayer from 25 feet - probably not what Alexander drew up in the huddle. McMasters had an off-balance shot at the buzzer, but it didn't fall.

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Halftime analysis: Obviously, with a tie score, it's anybody's game. McMasters could be heating up for a big night. USC Aiken has been in close games this season, but I haven't been impressed with the late-game decision making. I see this one heading down to the wire.

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19:04 2nd half USC Aiken 30, Clayton State 26: McMasters started the half's scoring by hitting two free throws, then Willis drove baseline on a power move that ended with a reverse lay-in. That was easily the most impressive bucket of the game so far. Clayton State had to burn an early time out, and all the momentum is with the Pacers. But this crowd is still pretty dead.

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14:00 2nd half USC Aiken 36, Clayton State 26: I didn't think it was possible, but Clayton State's offensive has grown even more ineffective. Fortunately for Pacer fans, the home team has finally taken advantage of it. Clayton State has missed its first nine shots since halftime and has yet to score at all in the second half. USC Aiken has managed 10 points in the same time span, and the Pacers are threatening to blow this one wide open. I smell a Sunday afternoon game in USC Aiken's immediate future.

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9:44 2nd half USC Aiken 39, Clayton State 34: The shooting woes continue for both teams. USC Aiken is at 31.7 percent, while the Lakers are shooting 29.8 percent. It gets much worse from the 3-point line. The Pacers defense, in a 2-3 zone for most of this half, is really making Clayton State work for every bucket. That's going to make a difference down the stretch. I'd give the Pacers the edge on endurance at this point.

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7:00 2nd half USC Aiken 41, Clayton State 41: Nothing like a few questionable foul calls to get the crowd back into the game. The teams' play wasn't going to do anything of the so- oops! Typed too soon. Clayton State's Brandon Robinson (13 points) just threw down a monster dunk off a backdoor cut to tie the game. The crowd is fully into it now. It's officially a nail biter.

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4:29 2nd half USC Aiken 48, Clayton State 46: Willis just hit two free throws (with the help of a Clayton State lane violation) to reclaim the lead. It's all boiling down to another classic Peach Belt Conference semifinals finish. Last year (the last time I live blogged a basketball game), it went to four overtimes. "Please, oh please," my fingers pray. "Don't let this one go into four overtimes."

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2:04 2nd half USC Aiken 53, Clayton State 48: Pay attention. This is the play you'll hear about tomorrow. With a 3-point lead, Nelson drove through the lane, went high off the glass and missed. But Willis followed by grabbing the offensive rebound off the rim and slamming it home. It easily drew the loudest cheer of the night from the fans and a timeout from Clayton State. Momentum-wise, that was huge.

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1:22 2nd half USC Aiken 55, Clayton State 50: Leonard hit two free throws, then Murry answered with a shot from the elbow. USC Aiken's free throw shooting (15 for 25) isn't great, but that's probably good enough to hold onto this lead. The Pacers just need to avoid those stupid late-game mistakes that have plagued them in the past. And please, keep the souvenir balls off the court!

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0:22 2nd half USC Aiken 56, Clayton State 54: McMasters at the free throw line shooting two. Missed the first, hit the second. Time out. Shot clock is off. Clayton State can hold for the last shot for a chance to tie or win. If I were them, I'd go for the win.

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0:05 2nd half USC Aiken 56, Clayton State 55: Clayton State's Eric Wilson got an offensive rebound and was fouled. He hit 1 of 2. Faison got the rebound on the second one and was fouled immediately. He'll go to the line for two.

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FINAL: USC Aiken 58, Clayton State 55: Faison hit both free throws. Clayton State still had a chance to tie, but Downs' attempt to kick the ball outside for a 3-pointer was stolen by Nelson to seal the win.

USC Aiken will play for the 2009-10 Peach Belt Conference Tournament Championship, and Augusta State will not. That sentence is Saturday night's play in a nutshell. March Madness is here.

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reb007
1
Points
reb007 03/06/10 - 10:52 pm
0
0
Lets go Aiken

Lets go Aiken

reb007
1
Points
reb007 03/06/10 - 10:54 pm
0
0
update????

update????

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