USC Aiken rides defense into semifinals

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COLUMBUS, Ga. — When Clayton State and USC Aiken last met on Jan. 28, the Lakers upended the Pacers.

However, USC Aiken – the Peach Belt Conference’s  regular-season champion – won when it mattered most Friday night, holding off Clayton State, 48-40, in a quarterfinal matchup at the conference tournament.

“We knew we were going to have a tough game tonight and we ended up playing one of the toughest teams in the conference, ” USC Aiken coach Vince Alexander said.
“This was a great defensive battle and we came out on top.”

The teams combined to make only 27 of 92 field-goal attempts (29.3 percent), only 1 of their 25 3-point shots and combined for 33 turnovers.

USC Aiken (21-6) went into the locker room at halftime up 22-17.

Clayton State (16-11) made a run of its own early in the second half and led 29-26 after a Juron Dobbs jumper with 12:40 remaining, but the Pacers (21-6) kept things close and took the lead for good on a pair of  free throws by Jesse Seilern with 9:57 left.

Clayton State trailed only 41-39 after a layup by Dobbs, but two turnovers along with 5 of 6 free-throw shooting in the final 33 seconds allowed USC Aiken to seal the win.

The game was the third-lowest scoring contest in Peach Belt Conference Tournament history, which dates back to 1992.

USC Aiken won despite shooting only 12 for 46 (26.1 percent) and making only 1 of its 16 3-point attempts.

Maurice Hubbard led the Pacers with 11 points.

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