And for good reason.
Since the Pacers’ arena opened in 2007, USC Aiken has defeated the Jaguars six consecutive times during the regular season. Georgia Regents has only managed to defeat the Pacers once in the convocation center – in the 2009 Peach Belt Conference championship.
If the Jaguars are going to add another conference regular season title, they’ll have to find a way to knock off their rival when they face off tonight.
“We’re going out there trying to win a Peach Belt Conference championship,” Metress said. “The only way to win a Peach Belt Conference championship is to beat Aiken.”
No. 9 USC Aiken (18-2, 10-0) leads the league by a game over Georgia Regents (16-3, 9-1). With a win, the Pacers will have a bigger cushion with eight regular season games remaining. If the Jaguars win, they will tie for the lead and make the return game Feb. 26 in Augusta a possible contest for the Peach Belt crown.
USC Aiken, though, has been near invincible at home, going 35-1 since the start of the 2011-12 season. The Pacers are 6-0 at home this season and have a 16-game winning streak at the convocation center, where they average 1,666 fans a game.
“We just have tremendous community support,” said USC Aiken coach Vince Alexander, who swept the Jaguars for the first time last season. “Our fans are very supportive and loyal. I think they make it an intimidating atmosphere.”
Of course, the Pacers are also loaded with talent. Senior guard Ronald Zimmerman is sixth in Peach Belt scoring with a 16.7 average, with a conference-best 80 3-pointers. Forward Paul Larsen leads the league with a 61.7 field-goal percentage while averaging 12.4 points and 8.5 boards a game. Point guard DeVontae Wright is averaging 14.6 points a game with 102 assists. Center Alvin Brown leads the Peach Belt with 78 blocks.
USC Aiken leads the league in scoring defense, allowing 64.8 points a game on 37 percent field-goal shooting (24 percent from the perimeter). The Pacers also average six blocks a game.
“They’re very good defensively,” Metress said. “We have not faced guys that can block shots like that. They’ve got great depth in the interior. We’ve got to keep our good players on the floor, and we’ve got to capitalize when we get to the rim.”
Georgia Regents counters by taking care of the ball (Peach Belt-best 10.3 turnovers a game) and by making 22 free throws a game, another league-best. Guard Ryan Weems leads the Jaguars with a 15.3 scoring average and is followed by center K.J. Sherrill (13.9 points, 6.6 rebounds). Forward Harold Doby, who is still recovering from foot surgery two months ago, averages 10.3 points and 6.7 boards a game.