Originally created 02/11/99

Seniors key Pacer victory



AIKEN -- Wednesday night had magical makings for USC Aiken even before the Pacers squared off with Peach Belt rival USC Spartanburg.

The Pacers finally got the nation's leading shot-blocker, 6-foot-10 senior center Derek Moore, back into the starting lineup after missing the last nine games with an ankle injury. And the player who took up most of the slack while Moore was out, 6-6 senior forward Juan Wiley, needed only 19 points to go over 1,000 points for his two-year career.

With the mood set, the Pacers went on to whip Spartanburg 76-62, with Wiley getting 26 points and 13 rebounds to eclipse the 1,000 point-mark. Guards Leon Brunson and Corey Faggins knocked in 16 and 14 apiece as the Pacers recorded their second straight victory.

And although Moore only finished with seven points and two blocks, his contributions stood tall with teammates and coaches.

"Just his presence in the middle is enough," Brunson said. "He doesn't have to score to be a threat, but he can, so it makes him that much more valuable."

Coach Mike Roberts added. "He's not 100 percent yet, but his presence alone makes us a much better team."

"My ankle is 100 percent, but my game-shape isn't," Moore said. "I knew my legs weren't going to be with me so I didn't want to try and do too much. It's going to take a little while to get back in shape, but I'm happy to get the win."

Aiken improves to 12-12 overall and 6-8 in the Peach Belt, while Spartanburg falls to 4-19 overall and 2-11 in Peach Belt action.

After falling behind 24-14, they didn't look like a much better team. But Brunson and Faggins, who have stepped up in the past two games, hit back-to-back 3-pointers as Aiken went on a 22-7 run to end the first half. Thomas Ryan's 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the half gave the Pacers a 36-31 lead as Aiken scored the final 12 points of the period.

"Them playing well gives us more diversity as an offensive team," Roberts said of the guard-play. "And it's good that we don't have to be one-dimensional."

Aiken continued the ball rolling in the second half with a Moore put-back on its first possession. With Moore and Wiley both clogging the paint, the Rifles had to gun from outside. Derrick Drummond launched 15 3s, connecting on six for a team-high 18 points.

His 3-pointer with 16:27 to play cut Aiken's lead to 40-36, but the Pacers had too much Wiley. Wiley hit a layup to put Aiken up 49-41 and on the next trip his fast-break layup gave the Pacers their largest lead of 10 and gave him 1,001 points as the game was halted to announce Wiley's mark.

"I thought about it a little before the game," Wiley said. "It's a great personal milestone for me, but it feels just as good to get this win."

It was all down hill after that for Spartanburg as Aiken played the inside-outside game perfectly with Moore putting the stamp on his return with a two-handed power dunk to put the Pacers up 67-53 under three minutes to play.

The Pacers sudden explosiveness comes in an opportune time as the Peach Belt tournament is nearing.

"Right now, we think we know what players need to be on the floor," Roberts said. "With everybody healthy, we're going to make a run come tournament time."

Wiley added. "No one's really looking at us now, so we plan to creep up on some people and sneak some wins."

The Lady Pacers dropped their 14th in a row as they fell to the Lady Rifles 71-43.