AIKEN — This was how it was supposed to go the first time around.
After falling on the road a month earlier at UNC Pembroke, the 15th-ranked USC Aiken women found revenge Saturday night in a 58-44 win over the Lady Braves.
With “UNC Payback” written on the Lady Pacers’ locker room chalkboard, USC Aiken (19-3, 12-2 Peach Belt) took full advantage of the second chance, opening up a big first-half lead with a 15-0 run.
Though leading scorers Hannah DeGraffinreed and Kayla Harris struggled offensively – they combined to hit just 7 of 21 shots and went 5 for 12 from the free-throw line – Lindsay Sundberg came off the bench to provide the spark. The senior forward hit all four of her 3-point attempts in the first half and finished with a game-high 17.
“Some of our best players probably didn’t have their best game here, but that’s the mark of a good team and a championship team when other players can pick up the slack like what Lindsay Sundberg did today,” coach Mike Brandt said. “I know Hannah DeGraffinreed struggled a little bit from the field and wasn’t on her game. Kayla struggled a little bit and fouled out. When your two all-conference players are not playing their best and you find a way to win by 14 points you’ve got to be satisfied as a team.”
Playing without leading scorer Courtney Bolton, UNC Pembroke (11-11, 8-5) had no answer this time for the Lady Pacers, who remained a game behind Lander in the conference’s East Division.
The Lady Braves missed 14 of their first 15 shots and finished the first half with just 15 points.
A pair of strong defensive efforts forced poor shooting nights from both teams – 31.3 percent from UNC Pembroke and 36.1 percent from USC Aiken – and mirrored their previous meeting when the conference opponents were held to 30.4 and 35.4 percent shooting from the field.
But the Lady Pacers were able to avoid a repeat upset thanks to a better defensive effort and Sundberg’s big game.
“It was definitely payback,” she said. “We watched the film this morning and it just made me (more mad).”