The Pacers made 29 of 33 free throws en route to a 77-67 win over the Lions on Wednesday at the convocation center.
The schools haven’t played each other in 15 seasons dating back to December 1997 after a fight erupted during a game. The energy level was high for the rematch, and both teams played physical for much of the game.
“We knew it would be a tough test,” USC Aiken coach Vince Alexander said. “They all did a good job. It was a character building game. We showed great character and resiliency.”
USC Aiken (6-2) jumped out to a double-digit lead early and was ahead by as much as 16 at the 6:52 mark. The Pacers shot only 27 percent in the first half but went 18 for 20 at the free-throw line behind Paine’s 15 fouls.
While the Lions shot 41 percent in the half, they were forced had to play catch-up from the beginning.
Paine (2-3) did not allow the Pacers to pull ahead by more than 10 at any point in the second half. However, a Santoine Butler dunk with 36 seconds left put USC Aiken up by six, and Paine was unable to recover.
“(Paine) was physical, but we matched their intensity and stayed aggressive,” guard Ronald Zimmerman said. “We’ve talked about finishing games and stepping on the opponent’s throat, and we had a tough time doing that. But we’re capable of doing it.”
Paul Larsen led USC Aiken with 16 points and a season-high 14 rebounds for his third double-double of the year. Larsen was coming off a 25-point effort against Francis Marion in his previous game and has two double-doubles in his past two games.
The Pacers tied a program record with 14 blocks, including nine by Butler. Re’mon Nelson added 13 points, eight assists and seven steals. Zimmerman recorded 15 points.
Paine received 16 points each from Mario Jordan and Darius Smith. Former Glenn Hills star Jerel Stephenson added 11 points, six rebounds and four steals.