AIKEN — Re’mon Nelson penetrated inside the perimeter and threw up a prayer.
Nelson’s 15-foot floater dropped through the net in the waning moments Friday night to cap a furious USC Aiken rally for a 67-65 win over Elizabeth City State.
Nelson scored nine of his 11 points in the final 2:16 of the game. His last bucket with 10 seconds remaining capped a 19-5 Pacers run.
“I believe this team is very blessed,” said Nelson, a junior guard. “When it got tough, we kept the faith.”
USC Aiken (7-1), which plays host to Virginia Union at 3 p.m. today, extended its winning streak to six. The Pacers’ last loss came on the road to Elizabeth City State (6-3), where they shot a woeful 14 for 29 from the foul line. This time, USC Aiken converted 12 of 14 free-throw attempts in the second half.
The Pacers struggled from the floor against the Vikings’ zone defense, shooting 43 percent. Jeremiah Pojah led USC Aiken with 16 points, his scoring coming inside the paint, on 8 of 12 shooting. The rest of the Pacers combined to shoot 36 percent from the field.
USC Aiken trailed by as many as 12 late in the second half. Then, with five minutes remaining, the Pacers turned it on.
Down the stretch, USC Aiken’s defense forced five turnovers with its full-court press, and it allowed just one field goal the final seven minutes.
“In the end, it comes down to how much you want to have it,” said Pacers guard Jesse Seilern. “We just pressed the heck out of them. That’s what got it going.”
With USC Aiken down 58-46, Seilern, who scored 11 points, swished six free throws in a row. Nelson added two more.
The Pacers chipped away at the deficit and trailed by seven when it forced four turnovers on a five-possession stretch by Elizabeth City State. A Nelson bank-in pulled USC Aiken within three. After an Omar Jones free throw for the Vikings, Nelson drove the lane for a layup.
Later, Nelson converted a three-point play. Elizabeth City State responded with a free throw to tie the game.
Then, with 10 seconds left, Nelson drove inside, got cut off en route to the basket and tossed in the game-winner.
“It’s a shot that players have to take,” Nelson said. “If you miss, you have to live with it.”
The Vikings’ Angelo Sharpless missed a 3-pointer from the right wing at the buzzer.