AIKEN — Alvin Brown hasn’t forgotten about USC Aiken’s last loss.
On Feb. 1, Brown played poorly in the Pacers’ home defeat to Georgia Regents. When the rivals faced off in the second round of the NCAA Division II Tournament on Sunday night, Brown was determined to make amends.
The USC Aiken senior center almost posted a triple double in a dominating performance as the fifth-ranked Pacers rolled to a 78-58 win over Georgia Regents in the second round of the NCAA Division II Tournament at the USC Aiken Convocation Center.
The Pacers (31-3) advance to play Montevallo in the Southeast Regional championship Tuesday night. The winner of that contest advances to the Elite Eight in Evansville, Ind.
In two previous games against the Jaguars this season, Brown recorded five points, five blocks and seven rebounds total. This time around, he scored 16 points with 11 rebounds and nine blocks.
“I knew this was a big game,” Brown said. “I remember the last time we played them here, I didn’t play all that well. That’s been heavy on me all season that we lost that game. Coming out tonight, I brought as much energy as I possibly could. I played as hard as I could. I wasn’t even thinking about my numbers.”
Georgia Regents and USC Aiken met in the Division II Tournament for the second time. The Jaguars defeated the Pacers in the 2009 Sweet Sixteen.
During the regular season, Georgia Regents dominated inside the paint in a 97-84 win at Aiken. In the return game in Augusta, USC Aiken bounced back from an 18-point, second-half deficit to win 82-73.
USC Aiken, the Peach Belt Conference regular-season and tournament champion, got off to a hot start behind Brown. He scored his team’s first six points and blocked two shots within the first five minutes of the game. The Pacers bolted to a 29-17 lead after Ronald Zimmerman, who scored 15 points, drained a 3-pointer with 5:40 left until halftime.
USC Aiken suffered a major blow when senior point guard DeVontae Wright, the team’s leading scorer, went down holding with ankle injury a minute later. Wright left the court and Georgia Regents took advantage.
Keshun Sherrill made an 18-foot jumper to ignite a 12-0 run. Ronell Crockett leaned in from 15 feet to knot the game at 29. Wright re-entered the game with 1:07 left before halftime and knocked down a pair of free throws to stake the Pacers to a two-point lead entering halftime.
In the opening two minutes of the second half, Brown scored five points and blocked a shot. USC Aiken ran out to a 53-41 lead.
“Alvin is leading the way,” Wright said. “He’s starting to get us going. He’s big for us.”
“He’s a big presence inside, altering a lot of shots,” Georgia Regents center K.J. Sherrill said. “We weren’t able to finish shots around the rim.”
Crockett converted a three-point play to pull his team within 53-48. But on four consecutive possessions, Georgia Regents’ Harold Doby turned it over, D’Angelo Boyce committed an offensive foul, Doby got blocked by Brown and then Doby turned it over. USC Aiken scored eight in a row, with Wright, who led the Pacers with 19 points, hitting two free throws for a 61-48 lead with 4:30 remaining.
Georgia Regents (24-8) posted its worst shooting performance of the season, shooting 30 percent from the floor, eclipsing the previous season low of 37 percent two months ago at Georgia College. The Jaguars made consecutive baskets just twice in the contest – once in the first half, another time in the second half. Georgia Regents also posted a season-low four assists.
“In postseason play, you have have to have the ability to play through contact,” Jaguars coach Dip Metress said. “We didn’t do a great job of playing through contact tonight.”
USC Aiken coach Vince Alexander added: “I consider them one of the best offensive-executing teams in the country. We’ve talked about taking our defense to the next level. We want to really turn up our defense. It’s really important to us, because we believe defense is going to win championships.”
Ryan Weems, Keshun Sherrill and K.J. Sherrill each scored 12 points to lead the Jaguars. Devon Wright-Nelson, who posted 28 points against Anderson on Saturday night, fouled out with five points. Doby led the team with 12 rebounds, getting ejected from his final game after a hard foul on Paul Larsen on a breakaway dunk in the final minute.