AIKEN - Despite the success the USC Aiken Lady Pacers are having, they are remaining focused.
The Lady Pacers shut down a depleted Augusta State team, playing solid defense and fundamental offense, for a 66-50 Peach Belt Conference win at The Courthouse on Wednesday.
"We've been winning games defensively," USC Aiken coach Phil Stern said. "They were very physical with us, and they had a good game plan. We took their best shot, and their best shot wasn't good enough tonight."
Augusta State (10-6, 3-3) managed to keep the Lady Pacers (12-4, 6-0) from blowing open the game early despite a lapse on defense when Sharon Taylor turned the ball over and Dana Richter hit a jumper for USC Aiken as time expired to take a 34-26 lead at halftime.
USC Aiken held the Lady Jaguars to 29 percent shooting in the second half, and at one point held Augusta State scoreless during a six-minute stretch.
During that time, USC Aiken took control by going on a 9-0 run to widen its lead to 43-28 with 11:52 remaining in the game.
Sophomore guard Jami Cornwell had a near triple-double in her 39 minutes of play. She scored 16 of her game-high 22 points in the second half and wore down Augusta State's defense with her ball handling and aggressive play.
"Jami didn't have her best night tonight," Stern said. "She made a nice adjustment in the second half by pulling up and taking the mid-range shot. She's just a natural leader."
USC Aiken allowed Augusta State to pull to within 34-28 at the start of the second half, but then opened up a double-digit lead it would not relinquish.
the Lady Pacers had a 20-point advantage with 3:09 left in the game.
Second-year coach Greg Wilson has seen his Lady Jaguars change during the course of a year. Captain Amy Frantz and Kristina Smith, both seniors,have left the team, while sophomore forward Sabrina Jones has missed the past six games with an ankle injury she suffered against Clayton State.
"We have some distractions, there's no doubt about that," Wilson said. "When you lose your senior point guard captain, it hurts you.
"Tonight I wish we could have better bench play. We can start to see some leadership coming out of our players."
Janell Gerk and Julie Szabo had strong nights for the Lady Pacers. Gerk, who has played sparingly after an injury, scored 15 points off five 3-pointers in 16 minutes while Szabo chipped in 10 points.
"I feel comfortable, but I'm not 100 percent," Gerk said. "With the team we have, I didn't have to rush back. There is always room for improvement. Right now we are 6-0, and we want to be 7-0."
Wednesday's matchup was the third game in five nights for the Lady Jaguars, who had a 71-53 win over Paine College on Monday. Throughout the night, though, Augusta State had trouble finding a rhythm.
"Defensively I was very pleased," Wilson said. "It got physical there, and our young team responded well to that. They were not intimidated by that at all. It's hard to be pleased with a 16-point loss."
Reach Miguelangelo Hernandez at (706) 823-3304.