Augusta State, USC Aiken women meet in top-25 matchup

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When the Augusta State women hit the court today, they will play their first top-25 matchup in nine seasons. And to add to the intrigue, it’s a rivalry game.

The 24th-ranked Lady Jaguars play host to No. 6 USC Aiken in the rivalry’s first top-25 meeting at 5:30 p.m. today at Christenberry Fieldhouse. The men’s game follows at 7:30.

“I think it’s great for the fans and it’s great for the area,” third-year Lady Jaguars coach Nate Teymer said. “It’s great that both teams are relevant.”

For the women, the game will determine first place in the Peach Belt Conference East Division with four weeks to go in the regular season. USC Aiken (16-2 overall, 9-2) has won three of its past four games after losing leading scorer Kayla Harris to a season-ending knee injury. Guard Daniela Tarailo now leads the Lady Pacers with a 15.6 scoring average on a league-best 65 3-pointers.

Three seasons after a 1-26 campaign, Augusta State is off to a school-best 15-2 mark while losing its leading scorer, Jemimah Ashby, to a knee injury, Jan. 2; she’s expected to return in two weeks, Teymer said. Center Taylor Ayers, a former Laney standout, paces the Lady Jaguars with 11.4 points and 7.4 boards a game.

“It should be a good one,” said Lady Pacers coach Mike Brandt, who has won six in a row in the series. “I think it’s great for the CSRA to have two quality teams. Nate’s done a great job at Augusta State.

“I’m expecting a dogfight.”

In the men’s game, USC Aiken is seeking to end a long drought at Augusta State. The Pacers last won in Augusta on Jan. 23, 2002, when Clint Keown scored a game-high 30 points to lead USC Aiken to a 65-61 win. Since then, Augusta State has won the past 10 regular-season matchups on its home floor.

Last year, forward Harold Doby posted 20 points and nine rebounds as Augusta State overcame a seven-point deficit the final 8:24 for a 58-53 win. But the 6-foot-6, 210-pound Doby remains out following his arrest on a gun charge Jan. 16, and the Jaguars have gone 1-4 against Peach Belt foes with the absence of Doby and center Chad July, who was dismissed two days after Doby’s arrest, inside the paint.

“That’s just the hand we’re dealt,” Metress said. “We trying to figure out how to straighten it out.”

With little inside presence, the Jaguars got outrebounded 64-35 in Thursday night’s two-point loss at Armstrong Atlantic State, but they still had a chance to win when Ryan Weems missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer. That’s one of the reasons Metress likens his team to Rocky Balboa from the first Rocky film.

“We keep getting up and we keep swinging,” Metress said. “We have to keep after it.”

USC Aiken (13-5, 9-2) is looking to repeat as Peach Belt champs, leading the East Division by 1 1/2 games over Armstrong. Augusta State (10-7, 5-5) remains in fourth place in the division by a half-game over Flagler.

The Pacers have weapons all over the court with guards Re’mon Nelson (14.1 scoring average, 122 assists) and Ronald Zimmerman (15.4 scoring average, 69 3-pointers). In the frontcourt, former Cross Creek standout Santoine Butler is averaging 12.5 points and 6.4 boards a game, while Paul Larsen chips in with 11.4 points and 8.7 rebounds a game.

Weems leads Augusta State with a 15.3 scoring average, while Devon Wright-Nelson is second (13.8).

IF YOU GO

WHAT: USC Aiken at Augusta State

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

WHERE: Christenberry Fieldhouse

NOTABLE: No. 6 Lady Pacers face No. 24 Lady Jaguars in their first top-25 matchup. In the men’s game, Augusta State is looking to stop a 1-4 slide against Peach Belt foes, while USC Aiken seeks its first win in Augusta since 2002.

PAST 10 REGULAR SEASON MATCHUPS

USC AIKEN WOMEN VS. AUGUSTA STATE

Feb. 15, 2012 (Augusta): USCA 68, ASU 63

Jan. 16, 2012 (Aiken): USCA 62, ASU 33

Feb. 2, 2011 (Aiken): USCA 97, ASU 43

Jan. 24, 2011 (Augusta): USCA 59, ASU 48

Feb. 3, 2010 (Augusta): USCA 72, ASU 47

Jan. 25, 2010 (Aiken): USCA 62, ASU 42

Jan. 19, 2009 (Aiken): ASU 61, USCA 60

Jan. 5, 2009 (Augusta): USCA 72, ASU 68

Jan. 21, 2008 (Augusta): ASU 48, USCA 37

Nov. 28, 2007 (Aiken): ASU 71, USCA 59

USC AIKEN MEN VS. AUGUSTA STATE

Feb. 15, 2012 (Augusta): ASU 58, USCA 53

Jan. 16, 2012 (Aiken): USCA 76, ASU 54

Feb. 2, 2011 (Aiken): USCA 74, ASU 62

Jan. 24, 2011 (Augusta): ASU 57, USCA 53

Feb. 3, 2010 (Augusta): ASU 73, USCA 59

Jan. 25, 2010 (Aiken): USCA 71, ASU 68

Jan. 19, 2009 (Aiken): USCA 78, ASU 74

Jan. 5, 2009 (Augusta): ASU 87, USCA 76

Jan. 21, 2008 (Augusta): ASU 75, USCA 59

Nov. 28, 2007 (Aiken): USCA 70, ASU 67


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