AIKEN — Baskets wouldn’t fall for most of the USC Aiken starters in Wednesday’s game against Armstrong Atlantic State. So coach Mike Brandt turned to his reserves.
With three starters on the bench, the Lady Pacers’ backups orchestrated a key 27-2 run in the second half and delivered a 73-54 Peach Belt Conference win.
The No. 16 Lady Pacers (6-1, 2-0 PBC) trailed by as many as 12 in the first half. The offense struggled early to get the ball to Hannah DeGraffinreed in the post, leading scorer Kayla Harris missed her first eight attempts and guard Mia Antoine didn’t get a shot off.
“We weren’t completely focused mentally, and we didn’t match their intensity in the first half,” starting guard Brittany Hill said. “We were throwing up a lot of shots, and panicking instead of playing our game.”
DeGraffinreed, Harris and Antoine were on the bench in the second half when reserves Mackenzie Reese, Lindsay Sundberg and Emily O’Rourke joined Hill and starting guard Daniela Tarailo.
Sundberg’s 3-pointer with 16:02 left put the Lady Pacers up 37-35 during the early stages of a 16-0 run.
“Coach always tells us our bench should be able to make us stronger,” Reese said. “That motivated us to bring in some energy.”
Reese went 4 for 4 from the field and finished with 10 points and four rebounds. Sundberg was also perfect from the field, scoring seven points, and O’Rourke added four points and six rebounds. “They did exactly what we asked them to do,” Brandt said.
Hill scored a career-high 19 points on 9 of 11 shooting. The Lady Pacers shot 61.3 percent from the field in the second half, and their ineffective man-to-man and 1-3-1 zone defenses were abandoned at halftime for a more compact 2-3 zone that forced Armstrong to take outside shots. The Lady Pirates (6-2, 1-1) went 0 for 10 from the 3-point line.