Originally created 03/06/03

USC Aiken's forgettable season comes to an end



COLUMBUS, Ga. - With rebounding and defense, Clayton State pulled the plug on USC Aiken's season Wednesday night.

The South fifth-seeded Lakers held the North fourth-seeded Pacers scoreless the final 3:25 of overtime and pulled out a 79-71 win at the Lumpkin Center.

"Our team played hard," sixth-year USC Aiken coach Mike Roberts said. "We fought; hung in there. I was pleased we had a chance to win."

USC Aiken led by as many as 11 in the second half after Pacers guard Lee Burton drained a 3-pointer from the wing with 17:05 remaining. But Clayton State (17-11), which out-rebounded the Pacers 42 to 27, used its size advantage inside to tighten up the game.

The Lakers drove to the basket, drew fouls and got to the foul line. Clayton State made eight free throws during an a 12-2 run to take it first lead of the second half. Jerry Edwards' dunk gave Clayton State a 60-59 lead.

Burton scored two of his team-high 23 on a pair of free throws to tie the game at 65 with 58 seconds left in regulation. Clayton's Kevin Young missed a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession, but Jonathan Reed grabbed the offensive rebound.

Clayton State, which defeated USC Aiken, 82-67, in their previous meeting this season, called a timeout with 6.9 seconds left in the game and set up an isolation play for Jason Byrd. Byrd drove to the basket, but was stripped by Bryant Latimer as the clock expired.

"Fortunately, the referees didn't call a foul," Latimer said.

USC Aiken took a three-point lead in overtime after Burton hit a jumper and Jamall Gray added a free throw. But the Pacers would not score again.

"We basically knew we had nothing to lose," Pacers senior guard Eric Dugans said. "They just made more shots than we did."

USC Aiken (5-23), which ended the regular season winning three of its final six games, endured its second straight losing season. It was the Pacers' worst season since joining Division II in 1990-91.

"Life doesn't always dish you out wins," Roberts said. "I think you can learn from losses, although I'd rather win."

In other tournament action, UNC Pembroke became the first Peach Belt team to achieve perfection - the wrong way. Armstrong Atlantic State knocked off the Braves, 67-59, and UNC Pembroke ended the season with an 0-28 record.

North Florida overcame a 15-point second-half deficit and defeated Lander in overtime, 77-68. Donny Lotz led four Ospreys in double figures scoring with 21 points.

Rodney Keener hit a runner in the lane as time expired to lift Georgia College & State to a 56-54 win over Francis Marion.

CLAYTON STATE (17-11)-Jason Byrd 4-8 5-5 14, Jamal Johnson 10-21 4-8 24, Mike Phenizee 2-3 1-2 5, Lamar Rodgers 4-7 0-0 12, Kevin Young 1-4 2-2 4, Jonathan Reed 3-9 2-2 8, Jerry Edwards 1-2 0-0 2, Leon Parker 2-3 3-4 7, Craig Butts 0-2 3-4 3, Stephen Cox 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-59 20-27 79.

USC AIKEN (5-23)-Lee Burton 7-15 5-6 23, Minda Statkus 2-6 6-6 10, Todd Williams 4-11 2-3 10, Bryant Latimer 2-9 5-6 10, Eric Dugans 4-7 0-0 8, Leroy Williams 0-1 0-0 0, Jamall Gray 3-5 2-5 8, Taurus Watson 1-1 0-0 2, Mitch Lewis 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-55 20-26 71.

Halftime: USC Aiken 34-27. End of regulation: Tied at 65.

3-point goals: Clayton State 5-17 (Byrd 0-1, Johnson 0-2, Young 4-6, Reed 0-5, Rodgers 4-6), USC Aiken 5-16 (Burton 4-9, Statkus 0-2, Latimer 1-3, Dugans 0-1, Williams 0-1). Fouled out-none. Rebounds: Clayton State 42 (Johnson 13), USC Aiken 27 (Dugans 7). Assists: Clayton State 16 (Byrd 5), USC Aiken 9 (Latimer, Burton 3). Turnovers: Clayton State 9, USC Aiken 9. Fouls: Clayton State 19, USC Aiken 19. A-127.



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