Augusta State, USC Aiken enter rivalry matchup unranked

Ranking doesn't matter when Jags, Pacers meet

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For the first time in five seasons, the Augusta State-USC Aiken men’s basketball matchup will not feature a top-25 team.

O'Neal Armstrong will help lead Augusta State against USC Aiken tonight. Both teams are unranked.  FILE/STAFF
FILE/STAFF
O'Neal Armstrong will help lead Augusta State against USC Aiken tonight. Both teams are unranked.

That won’t matter when the two rivals play tonight, Pacers coach Vince Alexander said.

“There’s no way Augusta State and USC Aiken can play and it not be a big game,” he said. “I’m sure they’re looking forward to it. And I know our guys are looking forward to it.”

USC Aiken plays host to the Jaguars at 7:30 at the convocation center. The women’s game, which pits the 13th-ranked Lady Pacers vs. the Lady Jaguars, starts at 5:30.

The Pacers (11-2, 5-0), the only undefeated Peach Belt Conference team, lead the East Division by a half-game over UNC Pembroke and by 1½ over Augusta State (8-6, 4-2). The Pacers can create some separation with wins over the Jaguars and Braves (on the road Wednesday night). Augusta State, which is 0-4 at the convocation center in the regular season, can jump in the thick of the division race with a win.

The Pacers have been successful this season thanks to a productive bench. Sterling Council leads the team with a 12.2 scoring average. Ronald Zimmerman leads the Peach Belt in 3-point shooting (29 of 58), while center Joel Gierbolini averages 7.8 points and leads the team in rebounding (6.8) and blocks (24).

“Essentially, we’re bringing three or four starters off the bench,” Alexander said. “We’ve been very blessed to have a situation like we do.”

“They’re like Noah’s Ark,” Augusta State coach Dip Metress said. “They have two of everything – two ones, two twos, two threes, two fours, two fives.

“They have the best team in the league.”

Augusta State is last in the league in scoring (67.6) and next to last in shooting percentage (41.1). On the flip side, the Jaguars lead the league in scoring defense, allowing 62.6 points a game.

Augusta State will start three freshmen (guards D’Angelo Boyce and Devonte Thomas and forward Devon Wright-Nelson) and sophomore (Harold Doby, team-high 12.3 scoring average). The Jaguars have won four of their past five games, including a 64-62 win Saturday night at Clayton State.

“If we can progress over the next two weeks like we have over the past two weeks, we’ll be able to compete for the division,” Metress said.

• The USC Aiken women are seeking to set a school- record winning streak with a victory tonight.

The Lady Pacers (12-1, 5-0) have reeled off 11 consecutive wins – tying the school mark – after a two-point defeat to Ferris State.

“We talk about that loss quite a bit,” USC Aiken coach Mike Brandt said. “I think we’ve done a good maintaining our focus. Augusta State is very dangerous. They’re much improved over last year. I think it’ll be a tough test.”

The Lady Jaguars (7-7, 3-4) are trying to reverse their four-game losing spell. Despite its record, Augusta State has been a tough opponent for USC Aiken. The Lady Jaguars have split the past four meetings at the convocation center.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Augusta State vs. USC Aiken

WHEN: 5:30 p.m. (women), 7:30 (men)

WHERE: USC Aiken Convocation Center


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