AIKEN --- An offensive spectator the first 39 minutes of the game, Hannah DeGraffinreed finally kicked into gear late.
The USC Aiken forward scored the final five points of the game to lift the Lady Pacers to a conference-opening 66-64 win over No. 25 Francis Marion tonight at the convocation center.
"I think that's the difference between Hannah last year and Hannah this year," USC Aiken coach Mike Brandt said. "She wanted the ball."
Brandt collected his 400th career win at the right time. The Lady Pacers, who defeated their second nationally-ranked opponent this season, improved to 7-2 overall, 1-0 in Peach Belt Conference play. USC Aiken defeated a Francis Marion squad (3-1, 1-1) that finished second in the league last year.
"We wanted to establish ourselves in the Peach Belt," said Daniela Tarailo, who had 14 points and five rebounds and made two clutch defensive plays at the end of the contest. "We have to defend out home court."
USC Aiken trailed by eight at halftime and twice fell down by double digits in the second half. The Lady Pacers shot 43 percent from the field and committed 22 turnovers.
"I don't think we played that good," Brandt said. "I'm excited about the prospect of how good we can be."
DeGraffinreed, the team's leading scorer, had yet to take a shot until the final minute. She went to her left hand for a layup to pull the Lady Pacers within one. On USC Aiken's next possession, DeGraffinreed faked left and slipped right around Danelle Downs for another layup to give the Lady Pacers their first lead since the opening minutes.
"I wanted to give everybody else a chance to score," DeGraffinreed joked.