AIKEN - USC Aiken's valiant comeback effort against one of the top teams in the nation fell just short Tuesday night as No. 10 Carson-Newman topped the Pacers 70-64 at The Courthouse.
After trailing 58-42 with just under 10:00 left, the Pacers (0-3) battled back to a two-point deficit at the 1:48 mark. But 5-foot-6 sparkplug Braun Dabbs - who scored all seven of his points in the second half - nailed a three-pointer with 40 seconds remaining, giving the Eagles a 67-62 cushion.
Carson-Newman (3-0) hit 3 of 4 free throws in the final seconds to seal the victory.
"If you're going to win games, guys have got make plays like that," Carson-Newman coach Dale Clayton said of Dabbs' clutch shot.
The Pacers, outrebounded 39-25, were clearly outmanned on the boards. They had difficulty containing Eagles senior center Dustin Edwards, who scored 14 of his team-high 20 points in the first half and corralled 12 rebounds.
"That kid is excellent," said USC Aiken coach Mike Roberts of Edwards. "Right now, he might be playing at the wrong level. I've known him for four years, and I'm happy I only have to see him one more time."
Carson-Newman led 35-28 at halftime and extended its margin to as many as 18 points early in the second half. USC Aiken began to capitalize on a series of Eagles turnovers midway through the secondhalf.
The Pacers had a 20-6 run, but were unable to tie the score. Six Pacers scored during the spurt, including Lee Burton, who finished with a game-high 24 points.
"I was very pleased with the fight our team showed in the second half," Roberts said. "Our kids could've packed things in. I've never been 0-3 here, but I'm encouraged by this team."
Junior guard Bryant Latimer, who entered the game averaging a team-high 19.5 points, was held scoreless by Carson-Newman in the first half. He scored 10 after halftime, to help bring the Pacers back into the game.
Roberts said his team's lack of offensive rebounding made the difference in the game.
"When you're getting bullied around like that, it's tough to use your quickness," he said. "That was a very physical game."
The Pacers will try to notch their first victory of the season when they travel across the river to face area rival Augusta State, Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Reach Lane Kramer at (803) 648-1395, Ext. 106.