AIKEN – Ronald Zimmerman unleashed a 3-pointer with 9 minutes remaining and USC Aiken found itself back in the game.
The Pacers overcame a sluggish first half to beat Georgia Southwestern 81-76 on Wednesday night at the convocation center.
No. 10 USC Aiken (23-3, 15-1 Peach Belt Conference) survived a tough Hurricanes’ effort to maintain its one-game lead in the league’s East Division and defend its top spot in the Division II Southeast Regional ranking.
“I just thank God for this win,” Pacers coach Vince Alexander said. “We’re blessed to hang in there and pull it out. Georgia Southwestern is always going to battle you.”
The Pacers were down 61-50 with 10 minutes left. Zimmerman stepped up and made a 3-pointer that generated a game-saving run. Nearly three minutes later, USC Aiken had its first second-half lead at 66-65.
“I was trying to make the shots we needed to get going,” Zimmerman said. “It was a spark we needed.”
The two teams battled for the remainder of the game, exchanging leads on almost every score. The Pacers found breathing room on a Santoine Butler 3-pointer with a minute left, and they held their lead for the rest of the game.
“The guys came through in the second half,” Alexander said. “We had some big shots go down for us.”
Zimmerman and DeVontae Wright each had 17 points to lead the Pacers. Jesse Seilern had 15 and Paul Larsen added 13.
Georgia Southwestern (18-8, 10-7) shot 51 percent for the game, and was led by Alan Arnett’s 21 points. But USC Aiken created more opportunities off rebounds and turnovers, totaling 16 offensive boards.
“Defensively, we got better in the second half,” Alexander said. “We didn’t guard the paint well in the first, but we did a better job down the stretch.”