COLUMBUS, Ga. — USC Aiken continued its quest Friday to win a second Peach Belt Conference title this season.
Despite struggling mightily against Columbus State, the regular-season conference champions held it together late for a 69-64
victory in the quarterfinals of the Peach Belt Tournament .
“We’re battle-tested,” Pacers coach Vince Alexander said. “We’ve played a lot of close games. We fought back.
“Not once did we think we were going to lose the game. We knew coming in it was going to be a tough game.”
Seventh-ranked USC Aiken (27-3), the No. 1 seed from the East, eliminated host No. 4 seed Columbus State (14-13) and will now play Georgia Southwestern, the No. 2 seed from the West.
Pacers guard DeVontae Wright led all scorers with 23 points in 39 minutes. Wright shot 6 for 12 from the field, with an 11 for 12 effort from the foul line.
Paul Larsen added 11 points and 10 rebounds for USC Aiken, while Jesse Seilern chipped in with 10 points. Ronald Zimmerman, who fouled out late, added nine points.
USC Aiken fell behind by as much as eight in the first half. But with two seconds left before halftime, Zimmerman made a 3-pointer to stake the Pacers to a 27-26 halftime lead.
With USC Aiken clinging to a two-point lead with 50 seconds remaining, Wright dropped in a floater as he was fouled. He made the free throw to stake the Pacers to a 65-60 lead.
“We came in and were expecting a few things we didn’t see and that threw us off a bit,” Alexander said. “I thought our guys showed a lot of patience and poise.”
Columbus State hurt itself at the foul line, making only 12 of 22 attempts.
Also, the Cougars shot 40 percent from the field, making 2 of 17 3-point attempts.
Kenney Funderburk scored 21 points to lead Columbus State, while Shane Heyward added 17.