Lady Pacers take opener

USC Aiken Women 55, Georgia College & State 32

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AIKEN — Questions surrounding the USC Aiken women’s backcourt received convincing answers Tuesday night in a 55-32 season-opening win over Georgia College & State.

The Lady Pacers entered the night ranked preseason No. 17 with high expectations leaning on the play of returning forwards Hannah DeGraffinreed and Kayla Harris. But someone had to get the ball up the court and in to the post after the team lost last year’s starters Nakia Pinkney and Triahna Harris to graduation. Sophomore transfer Brittany Hill filled the void and more in her Lady Pacer debut.

“That was definitely my main concern coming into this year. Who was going to bring the ball up the court?” head coach Mike Brandt said. “It was good to see Brittany Hill step up. She’s a great worker. She watches tape. She comes in every day and does the extra work.”

The 5-foot-8 guard, who transferred from Quinniapiac, distributed the ball evenly around an offensive attack that saw 11 different Lady Pacers score. Hill led USC Aiken with five assists and still found room for 10 points, six rebounds and three steals.

“I was nervous. There’s always nerves the first game,” Hill said. “But that dies down once you get out there and start playing. I was just trying to move the ball around and get the best shot.”

Hill hit four of her first five shots in a back-and-forth tug of war to open the game. The lead changed hands six times within the first 10 minutes, but Hill’s jumper from the right elbow with nine minutes left in the first half gave the Lady Pacers the lead for good.

Hill forced a defensive jump ball in the paint three minutes later that gave USC Aiken possession and led to a Porsha Martin basket. The sophomore forward led the team in scoring with a career-high 11 points.

The Lady Pacers led by 12 at halftime and nearly doubled the lead with a surge to start the second half. Hill’s cross-court bounce pass in transition flew between two Georgia College & State defenders and found Daniela Tarailo in stride for an easy fastbreak lay up to cap a 10-0 run.

“That’s my favorite pass,” Hill said. “It’s just something you have to react to when you see it.”

The Lady Pacers defense allowed just six second half baskets and forced 14 turnovers.

GAME HIGHLIGHTS

PLAY OF THE GAME: USC Aiken’s Brittany Hill came up with a steal then led the fastbreak with a cross-court bounce pass in transition that cleared two defenders and caught Daniela Tarailo in the lane for an easy lay up to highlight a 10-0 second-half run.

STAR OF THE GAME: Hill had 10 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals in her Lady Pacers debut.

NEXT: USC Aiken vs. Farris State at the Catawba Thanksgiving Tournament in Greenwood, S.C., 3 p.m., Saturday.


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