USC Aiken coach Vince Alexander is downplaying the magnitude of tonight’s game. Georgia Regents coach Dip Metress knows what’s at stake, though.
The eighth-ranked Pacers can win the Peach Belt Conference regular season title if they can defeat the Jaguars at Christenberry Fieldhouse.
The USC Aiken men (24-3, 16-1) are bidding for their third consecutive Peach Belt crown and their fifth overall – Georgia Regents also owns five. The Pacers hold a two-game lead over Georgia Regents (21-5, 14-3) with two to play. The Jaguars can still win the conference, but they will have to win tonight and then hope for UNC Pembroke to upset the Pacers on Saturday.
“Who wouldn’t want to win the conference outright on your rival’s home floor?” Metress said.
USC Aiken is the No. 1 team in the Southeast Region, and Alexander said clinching the regional – and playing host to the first three rounds of the NCAA Division II Tournament – is the most important thing for his squad.
“It’s not about us trying to win conference in Augusta,” he said. “It’s about winning games and giving us an opportunity to host. We just need to focus in on that.”
USC Aiken has won six in a row after falling to Georgia Regents on Feb. 1 in Aiken.
“We learned we had a lot of things we still needed to work on,” Alexander said. “Honestly, we learned you’ve got to be ready to play every night.”
With its win in Aiken, Georgia Regents tied for the conference lead. Then, the Jaguars stumbled in their next game, a four-point loss at Clayton State. On Saturday, Georgia Regents allowed its most points to a Division II team in Metress’ 10-year tenure in Augusta, a 94-86 defeat at Francis Marion that made the Jaguars’ chances of winning the conference almost impossible.
“It wasn’t about looking past (Francis Marion). They just played well,” Metress said. “Now we’ve got to play well and try to beat Aiken. Then, we want to try to close out K.J.’s (Sherrill), Harold’s (Doby) and Ryan’s (Weems) home career Saturday.”
Since the schools began playing in 1976, Georgia Regents has never lost to USC Aiken at home in consecutive years. Last February, the Pacers defeated the Jaguars, 76-62, at Christenberry Fieldhouse.
USC Aiken is led by guards Ronald Zimmerman (16.5 scoring) and DeVontae Wright (14.5). Also, Paul Larsen is averaging 12.4 points and 8.6 boards a game.
Georgia Regents counters with guards Ryan Weems (15.3 points) and Keshun Sherrill (11.3). Center K.J. Sherrill, who scored 20 at USC Aiken, averages 14.5 points and 6.2 rebounds a contest.
In the women’s game, Georgia Regents (9-15, 5-12) is looking to snap an eight-game losing streak, while USC Aiken (9-17, 7-10) can solidify its chances of making the conference tournament with a win.